Not guilty plea from Carlsbad mother of three accused of killing husband

VISTA (CNS) – A Carlsbad woman accused of fatally shooting her
schoolteacher husband in their home before fleeing with their three children
pleaded not guilty Monday to murder and was ordered held on $2 million bail.

The prosecution had sought bail of $5 million for Julie Elizabeth
Harper, 39, who is charged in the Aug. 7 death of her husband of more than 10
years.

The defendant had filed for divorce a week earlier, claiming in court
documents that she endured verbal abuse, as well as pushing and shoving, at the
hands of Jason Harper.

Deputy District Attorney Keith Watanabe alleged the defendant shot her
spouse between 8 and 9 a.m. last Tuesday and didn't surrender to police until
18 hours later.

“During that time period, the gun has been removed from the crime
scene, as well as the victim's cell phone and wallet,” Watanabe told Judge
Richard Mills. “During that 18-hour period, the defendant had enough time in
order to hide evidence or manipulate evidence, and for that reason we believe
she does pose a problem to the investigation in the case and is a danger to
herself and the community.”

The couple's 8- and 6-year-old children told investigators they heard a
“thump” and their father yell the morning of the shooting.

When the children arrived at their parents' bedroom, the door was
barricaded and their mother said their father had fallen off a chair, according
to Watanabe.

The defendant took the two children and the couple's 18-month-old son
and went to a coffee shop, a neighbor's house for a “play date,” then to a
play area, the prosecutor said. She then dropped off the children at her
sister's home in Clairemont and disappeared, Watanabe said.

About 11 p.m. Tuesday, defense attorney Paul Pfingst called Carlsbad
police and asked them to do a welfare check at the couple's home.

The victim — a 39-year-old Carlsbad High School teacher and volleyball
coach — was found face down with a gunshot wound to the side. The bullet went
through the victim's rib cage and penetrated his heart, Watanabe said.

About 10:30 a.m., the victim's brother had called him but got no answer.
About an hour later, the brother got a text from the victim's phone saying he
was “out running errands,” according to Watanabe.

Pfingst said his client made a domestic violence call to Carlsbad police
last November. When police arrived, Jason Harper was asked to leave the
residence to cool off, Pfingst told reporters.

“It's always difficult talking about what happens in a marriage behind
closed doors,” Pfingst said. “People outside the marriage may see one thing,
people inside the marriage may see something entirely different. And obviously
this is one of those marriages.”

Pfingst said the couple's two older children described behavior in the
marriage that revealed “more than just significant problems,” including
yelling and berating on almost a daily basis.

“It's a very, very troubling, sad, tragic end to a marriage,” Pfingst
said.

Pfingst said his client tried to use the courts to dissolve the
marriage. “Obviously, that did not work out as she planned,” her attorney
said.

Julie Harper, a homemaker, has been taking several medications for a
chronic arthritic condition, Pfingst said.

He said the defense has been cooperating with the criminal
investigation. Pfingst also said his client is worried about her children and
wants to make sure they're OK.

The victim's mother said his family was proud of the man and the father
he had become.

“He had integrity. He was honest. He taught his children what was
right,” Lina Harper said. “He had high expectations for himself, as a teacher
and a volleyball coach. We can't believe that he's gone. We're heartbroken that
his children no longer have their dad. We miss him so much.”

The defendant faces a maximum of 50 years to life if convicted of murder
and the use of a gun. A bail review was set for Aug. 21 and a preliminary
hearing for Nov. 2.

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