Woman Who Saw Mother's Murder Frustrated As Tulsa Man Lives Free
TULSA, Oklahoma - A man who served time for two Tulsa murders and was released from prison under supervised probation goes before the parole board next week. Those who know Ernest Harper say he's become a model citizen, employee and family man. But a family in Louisiana says the only place he belongs is behind bars.
Ernest Harper was the prime suspect in his wife Sandra's murder in 1974 in New Orleans, but he fled to Oklahoma before being arrested. After moving here, he murdered his girlfriend and her 12-year-old daughter.
A Jury gave him the death penalty, so Louisiana decided not to prosecute him for Sandra's murder. Then the Supreme Court stopped death sentences, so Harper's sentence was changed to life. After serving about 20 years, he was set free.
When Ernest Harper was released in Oklahoma in 1997, it was Sandra Harper's daughter who learned about it, while doing a periodic check on him through prison records.
"I kind of lost it. I was at work. I'll never forget. I dropped to the floor. We didn't know this," said Stephanie, daughter of victim Sandra Harper.
She notified New Orleans police and the district attorney there filed charges against Harper. He was arrested in Oklahoma and was headed to Louisiana, but it was too late.
At the time, Louisiana had a six-year statute of limitations on murder, so Harper was never prosecuted for Sandra's murder.
Stephanie was eight years old at the time of her mother's death and remembers the day it happened. She and her siblings were playing tea party in their room.
"All of a sudden, I heard a scream in the living room. I saw my mom jet outside the door, because I guess she was running away from him. He stabbed her right there. I remember blood on the porch," she said in a telephone interview.
Ernest Harper has been out of prison for years and is leading a model life. He has worked as paralegal and is remarried. Those who know him say he is the best case scenario of someone who did wrong, served his time and got out. That's what his former boss told me a few years ago.
"If there was ever a case of someone being rehabilitated by the Department of Corrections, this is it," said Stan Monroe, Tulsa attorney.
However, Stephanie doesn't care what Ernest Harper is now. What she remembers is who he was when her mother married him: a violent man who was in and out of prison.
She sees cases from 20 and 30 years ago being brought to justice and is frustrated it won't happen for her mother.
"I just feel like he's out there eating, breathing the same air as society, and it's a slap in the face to us from the justice system," Stephanie said.
The parole hearing is May 14th and since Harper has already been living and working out of prison, the board will likely approve his transition to complete parole.
We'll let you know.