Stabbing just a chapter in violent life
When her bleeding husband ran from their Hudson apartment Tuesday, Donna Thomas Harris barricaded herself inside by pushing a love seat against the front door.
After police kicked in the door and hauled Harris, 54, away in handcuffs past the bloody trail outside, they found two knives in the apartment – one on the loveseat that had been blocking the door, and the other embedded in the drywall above a bedroom door, according to search warrant documents.
From that day former Lenoir Police Capt. Sharon Poarch can draw a line back to the 1980s, when she remembers seeing Harris, who then was Donna Lingle, walking the streets of downtown Lenoir, a cold, blank stare gazing from her eyes blackened and bruised from beatings at the hands of her husband.
"It was so sad," said Poarch, now director of the Shelter Home of Caldwell County. "Sometimes people become desensitized to the violence and abuse around them. They almost accept it."
Since long before she was accused of killing her husband, Harris has known little but conflict and violence wherever she lived.
Her first husband, Garry June Lingle, was well known as a violent man. Among his arrests was a charge of first-degree murder in 1988, which eventually was dismissed, but from 1987 to 1999 he was convicted on seven counts of assaulting a female and one of violating the terms of a domestic violence protection order, and he was arrested many more times on other assault charges – most dismissed because Donna Lingle didn’t want to press charges.
That’s often the case in violent relationships, Poarch said. "They almost accept it.We work with people to say no, that's not how it is or should be. Violence doesn't have to be an acceptable way of life.
"It's frustrating to try and help victims and be there for them when they're afraid to ask out of a relationship they are in. (But) if that is your lifestyle, and you know nothing but abuse and violence, it's a hard decision to make."
After Lingle came a volatile, mutually violent relationship with Gary Wayne Hollar of Lenoir, who also had a history of violence against women. Police said at the time that they had been called to Hollar’s house on Old Morganton Road 51 times from January 2000 to February 2003, when Harris shot and killed Hollar with a .22-caliber rifle. She maintained she and Hollar had been struggling for control of the rifle, and she accepted a deal in 2004 to plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter.
She was released from prison in 2010, and ever since she and William Daniel Harris, known as Danny, moved into their apartment off Kristen Lane last July, neighbors had been calling the police and complaining of the high-volume fights.
"I've called the cops at least a dozen times on them," said Tonya Teague, who lived next door and could hear the fights through the paper-thin walls, including the one Tuesday that ended in Danny Harris’ fatal stabbing.
"She reeked of alcohol," Teague said of Donna Harris.
Danny Harris, bleeding profusely from a chest wound, ran door to door, pounding on them and pleading for help.
"She stabbed me," he said.
Hudson Police Sgt. Scott Lovins arrived to find Danny Harris sitting in a lawn chair, at the end of a 75-feet-long trail of blood. Harris died at Caldwell Memorial Hospital, the latest of the state’s domestic-violence-related killings. Last year alone, there were 108 domestic violence-related homicides in the state, according to the N.C. Department of Justice.
Curious, Teague waited until the commotion died down to take a look around the crime scene next door to her. The calm serenity struck her.
"It's so peaceful and beautiful now," she said. "There's no more violence, drama and fighting. There's finally peace."