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Aaron Harris murder trial underway

Cerro Gordo County Courthouse
Cerro Gordo County Courthouse

by Jody Spear –

MASON CITY – After a day of deciding on a jury, the trial of Aaron John Harris, 36, who is charged with First Degree Murder started Wednesday morning at the Cerro Gordo County Court House.

Harris, a Mason City resident, is accused of killing 40-year-old Sarah Winters on July 10, 2012 at 410 N. Washington Avenue. The state medical examiner’s office ruled that Winters’ death was homicide caused by strangulation.

Shortly before 9:00 am, Harris was escorted into the courtroom and seated beside his lawyer, Susan Flander. Harris looked around the room to see who was all there. He nodded to someone, not seeming to know the severity of the day. The defense is going with a diminished responsibility and intoxication defense.

The twelve jurors and one alternate, seven women and six men, entered the room and took their seats and the Judge was introduced. The charges against Harris were read and the attorneys started their opening statements.

Cerro Gordo County Attorney, Carlyle Dalen, opened with, “We will show the deliberate, pre-meditation, with the intend to kill and that he (Harris) is guilty of First Degree Murder.” Dalen told of the interview between Harris and Officer Prochaska on the morning of July 10. How he had strangled Winters, and actually showing the Officer how he did it by getting on top of him and going through the motions.

Flanders talked about the emotional and mental state of mind in which Harris was in the day before, that night and during the interview with Officer Prochaska and how alcohol played a part.

At 9:30 am, the first of sixteen witnesses, took the stand. Mr. Ramlahken Hilton, manager of 410 N. Washington boarding house, confirmed that Harris did call him in the early morning hours saying, “I killed Sarah.” Hilton said he asked if he should call the police, “He started laughing and said, “No, I’m joking.”

410 North Washington after the murder
410 North Washington after the murder

“He (Harris) then asked if he could use my white truck. I know Sarah has a car, so I did get suspicious. I called another tenant of the house, Chris Smith and got a hold of his girlfriend, Vickie Johnson. I told her the situation and asked if she’d go over and check on Aaron.”

Hilton also confirmed, for Flanders, that Harris was drinking the night of the murder.

Vickie Johnson took the witness stand at 9:50 am. She confirmed what Hilton said. Johnson and her daughter were at Taco Bells when the call came at 12:13 am. They went over to see if they could get Chris Smith to check on Aaron.

Johnson said, “My daughter, Danielle, said she’d run up to find Chris. She came back running, her body going faster than her legs. She was scared and wanted to leave. She told me what she saw and I called 911.”

At this time, they played the call to 911 for the jury.

Assistant Iowa Attorney General, Douglas Hammerand, who is assisting Dalen questioned Danielle Roath, 15, but only 14-years-old at the time of the murder. “Aaron was friends with my mom and her ex-boyfriend, Chris Smith. We had a couple cookouts together,” said Roath, when asked if she knew Harris.

“I saw Aaron dragging Sarah’s body,” said Roath. Roath went into details on the house set-up, how she got in and how she happened to witness the act. “She was bloated and had blood coming out of her mouth.”

There was a short recess after Roath’s testimony. More witnesses were expected, starting with Randy Axiotis.

It was said that the trial is expected to last about a week.

Aaron Harris

Video interview with witness:


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