Central Texas woman who killed husband she believed to be possessed to remain in mental hospital

April Kay Harris was found not guilty by reason of insanity in 1997 in the shooting death of her husband
Judge Susan Kelly of Waco’s 54th State District Court ordered April Kay Harris to remain at a...
Judge Susan Kelly of Waco’s 54th State District Court ordered April Kay Harris to remain at a state hospital in Kerrville(Photo obtained by Tommy Witherspoon for KWTX)
Published: Nov. 15, 2022 at 3:04 PM CST
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - A former McLennan County woman who killed her husband 27 years ago because she thought he was an “espionage spy” and possessed by a cult member’s body will remain in a mental hospital for further treatment, a judge ruled Tuesday.

Judge Susan Kelly of Waco’s 54th State District Court ordered April Kay Harris to remain at a state hospital in Kerrville for continued treatment after doctors there reported that she remains a threat to herself and others because of her ongoing schizophrenia and neurocognitive disorder.

Harris, 65, was found not guilty by reason of insanity in 1997 in the shooting death of her 39-year-old husband, Timothy Lee Harris, two years before. She has been in a state mental hospital ever since. Her condition is reviewed annually to determine if she can be released or transferred to a less-restrictive environment.

Harris told authorities she shot her husband in the head while he was sleeping at their home in Elk because she thought he was possessed by the body of an unspecified cult member. She said after she shot him the first time, she looked in the head wound, saw cult members inside his head and shot him again.

State prosecutors and Harris’ attorney, Rob Swanton, were in agreement with Harris’ doctors that she needs to remain hospitalized. Swanton said he spoke to Harris and her social worker before the hearing and reviewed the physicians’ examination report. Harris remains hospitalized and waived her court appearance Tuesday.

“Sadly, she continues to suffer from the effects of severe schizophrenia, which requires continued hospitalization,” Swanton said.

Dr. Jennifer Wright of the Kerrville State Hospital said in a report to the court that Harris’ “severe psychotic illness has remained refractory to various antipsychotic medications over the years and she continues to endorse the same bizarre delusional beliefs” that led to her not guilty by reason of insanity judgment in the death of her husband.

The doctor reported that Harris has no insight into her psychiatric illness, which has led to a long history of medication non-compliance.

“In addition to lethal violence against others, (Harris) has committed significant acts of aggression toward herself, including suicide attempts by jumping off a highway overpass in Austin, cutting her wrists and throat and hanging,” according to Wright’s report. “Her persistent psychotic thought process significantly impairs her judgment and influences her behavior, though this is somewhat attenuated by the structure and supervision of the inpatient setting.”

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