Harla Brown

My sister Harla was a beautiful, spirited, loving person.  She had just turned 41 years of age but had the zest for life of a 25 year old.  She was not blessed with children, but had a cocker spaniel that was her baby.  His name is Joshua Wayne.  She loved that dog.  She was also very close with her three nephews and three nieces.  They thought she was cool, which she was.

My sister was honest to a fault, couldn't keep a secret, loved chocolate milk, Dr. Peppers, burritos from the Sonic, music, her family and friends.  She was a phone bug, stayed on it all the time.  She had an infectious laugh, good personality, quick wit and good outlook on life.  Harla would make her home available to her family or friends should they need a place to stay, help monetarily if she could.  

She had been through her rough times in life, like we all do.  Sometimes she handled things better than other times, but she never gave up.  She believed in God and knew he would help her through whatever life put on her plate.  At times she had a very full plate.  

I suppose she dreamed what most of us dream.  She wanted to be happy, find fulfillment in love, be comfortable monetarily, and live her life to the fullest.  Unfortunately, that choice was taken away from her on September 19, 1999, by someone else.  She was shot and killed in her home by her room mate.  

I was phoned by her friend of 23 years on that Sunday night and told that my sweet, beloved sister had been shot.  We didn't know the circumstances at first.  I didn't know if someone had broken into the house, if she was outside, not at home, or what.  I then called our other sister, Jamie, and told her that Harla was dead.  As she lived closer to Freeport, she left immediately to speak with the police there.  She later called me with the circumstances surrounding the death of our sister.

Harla and her on and off-again room mate for the past nine years, David Andrew Smith, (no kin to me), were home alone.  A neighbor across the street later told police he heard a gunshot while he was outside washing his vehicle.  He said he checked with his wife to see if everything was alright in their house, then resumed washing the vehicle.

Several moments later, he saw David come out the front door, walk to the neighbors' houses on the right, knock on the door, and get no answer.  He then angled across the front yard toward the neighbor on the left, waved at the neighbor washing his car, and continued to the neighbor on the left's house.  The man washing his vehicle noticed blood covering David's hand, arm and clothing.  He intercepted him and asked him if he had injured himself.  David told the man, "I can't believe Harla shot herself."  The neighbor went to his house and told his wife to call 911 and then went with David back to Harla's house.  David sat on the porch and asked the neighbor to check on Harla.  The neighbor did.

When the police arrived, my sister was dead from a single gun shot wound to the upper chest area, just below the collar bone.  She had bled to death.  The police believed foul play was involved.  They bagged David's hands and took him in for questioning.  As I understand it, they questioned him for approximately 10 hours.  They sent Harla's body off for an autopsy.  

During the course of his questioning, David kept changing his story.  He told the police he couldn't remember what happened.  Later, he would seemingly remember some details.  Some of those details were, he was in the bathroom but couldn't remember why; he never heard the shot but saw Harla lying on the floor; he saw a flash from the gun, etc.  He stuck with his same basic story about not remembering exactly what happened.  The police released him from questioning and told him to go to his brother's house a block over from Harla's house.  They arrested him later that evening, after receiving the autopsy report saying that my sister had died from the result of a gunshot wound, homicide.  

The police gathered blood spatter evidence, handwriting analysis, gunpowder tests, evidence from the home, and took many, many statements.   They said there was no doubt in their minds that David had murdered Harla.  The information was presented to the criminal District Attorney and she gave the go ahead for prosecuting this as a murder.  

It took 5 months of going before a grand jury.  Why so long, we don't know, and have questioned.  Ultimately, the grand jury no-billed David due to lack of evidence.  I still can't believe that.  Now this case is considered an inactive case.  There is no statute of limitations on murder in the state of Texas.  The investigator on this case assures me that she will continue to do everything in her power to get this re-introduced to another grand jury.   I will help her in any way I can.

I guess you could say this has become an obsession of mine.  I think about my sister and how she died every single day and night.  

Sharon Smith







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