Brother predicted love would end in death

Alcohol, pills fueled the violence
Apr. 29, 2014 @ 08:33 AM

Jeffrey Harris told his brother more than once that his wife would kill him.

But Danny Harris was devoted to his wife, Donna, despite her violent moods, despite her moving in with another man, and he waited for her when she went to prison in 2004 for killing that man, Gary Wayne Hollar, Jeffrey Harris said.

"I told Danny, 'When she gets drunk, you're going to end up like that Hollar guy,'" he said.

After Danny Harris, 58, died last Tuesday from stab wounds and Donna Harris, 54, was charged with murder, neighbors at their apartment off Kristen Drive in Hudson described the Harrises as constantly yelling and fighting, one or the other always being arrested or going to the hospital.

It's nothing like the home life that Jeffrey Harris, 55, said he and his big brother had growing up in Lenoir. Jeffrey moved away to Florida at age 13 but always looked up to Danny.

"He was a very good brother, he loved his family," Jeffrey Harris said. "He was a wonderful musician and played guitar very well. He was a very intelligent and very loving person."

Jeffrey Harris later joined the U.S. Air Force, while Danny Harris married his first wife, Robin Willis. They had a daughter, Taylor, now 23. After that marriage ended, Danny Harris started dating the then-Donna Thomas, and they eventually moved in together in Morganton, Jeffrey Harris said. He remembers first meeting Thomas at his mother's house in Lenoir, where Thomas was passed out drunk on the couch.

"They were both blitzed," Jeffrey Harris said. "I had to drive her back to Morganton."

Their relationship was volatile. Jeffrey Harris recounted being with his brother while Danny Harris was grilling steaks, and he noticed scars on Danny Harris' back.

"I asked him where the scars came from, and he told me she took a tire iron to his back," he said.

And yet Harris and Thomas married in 2001. A year after they married, Donna Harris kicked Danny Harris out of the house, accusing him of being unfaithful to her.

But they didn't divorce, even after she took up with Hollar in 2002. In February 2003, Donna Harris killed Hollar with a single shot to the chest from a .22-caliber rifle. She was charged with first-degree murder but contended she had been struggling for control of the rifle because Hollar was going to shoot her, and she pleaded guilty in 2004 to voluntary manslaughter.

"He was faithful to her the whole time she was in prison," Jeffrey Harris said. "He sent her money regularly."

When she was released in 2010, she and Danny Harris got back together and moved to Boone. But the relationship was no less volatile, Jeffrey Harris said, and she often accused her husband of being unfaithful.

"Danny thought she would eventually kill him," Jeffrey said. "She was always on pills or alcohol. When anyone was around them, or when she was sober, they were all lovey-dovey. It was like Jekyll and Hyde with her."

Two weeks ago, Danny Harris had a double-hernia operation. Days later, he called Jeffrey Harris on April 20 and said that Donna Harris had once again kicked him out of their apartment despite his still-weakened condition. Concerned, Jeffrey Harris called Donna Harris and pleaded with her to let her back in because he was still recovering from surgery.

That was the last time Jeffrey Harris talked to either of them.

"He was a non-violent person, he didn't deserve to die. Not like this."