Susan Hurley Harrison

My sister, Susan Hurley Harrison, 52 at the time, disappeared on August 5, 1994, in Baltimore County, MD; her remains were found on November 29, 1996, in rural Frederick County, by two hikers.Her death was subsequently ruled a homicide by the state medical examiner.Our family had been assured by police that if Susanís body were found and her death determined to be a homicide, charges would be brought against Jim Harrison, her allegedly abusive estranged second husband, who was the last person to see her alive and whom she had been in the process of divorcing.An arrest never occurred and charges were never filed.I believe that Jim Harrison has gotten away with murder.My outrage at this lack of justice is expressed in my 2003 book, Finding Susan.

 

Susan was scheduled to fly to Boston on Saturday, August 6, 1994, with 19-year-old Nick, the younger of her two sons from her first marriage, for a visit with my brothers and other relatives.She went over to Jimís house around 7:00 Friday evening and never returned.Nick waited and waited, then left her a note to call him at his dadís as soon as she returned.The next day Nick went back and she wasnít there.He contacted my brothers in Boston, and throughout the day Nick and they tried calling both Susanís and Jimís, but got no answer. Nick drove by Jimís house, though, and saw his car in the driveway.In the early afternoon, Nick and his father, Tom, reported Susan as missing.The police went to Jimís house in the late afternoon; his car was there but he wasnít.They left a note on the door for him to phone them.He finally did at around 7:00 p.m., and they told him Susan was missing.

 

Jim claimed that after Susan came to his house the night before, they began drinking and then arguing.Around 10 p.m., he went upstairs to bed, leaving her downstairs yelling.Shortly thereafter, he claimed, he heard her car door slam and she left.The next morning he woke up and decided to go for a jog.This did not ring true to the cops or anyone who knew Jim, because he was an out-of-shape heavy drinker who was not known to exercise.After jogging for awhile, he claimed, he came to the Light Rail stop and decided to take the train into downtown Baltimore for the day.In late afternoon he took the train back to the same stop and walked to his Lutherville home.

 

About a half hour after Jimís talk with the police, Nick called him and asked if he knew where Susan was.Jim feigned surprise at the news she was missing.Nick asked Jim whereíd heíd been all day, and Jim said at home, but when Nick pointed out that people had been trying to reach him at home all day, Jim changed his story and started to say heíd gone ďto the eastern . . .Ē and then stopped mid-sentence and changed it to ďdowntown.ĒSimilarly, the next day when my brother Bill asked Jim on the phone if he knew where Susan was, once again Jim acted surprised and said, ďI thought she was up there with you.Ē

 

Jimís accounts and behavior over the next days and weeks were suspicious. When his cleaning-woman came to clean the house about a week after Susan disappeared, Jim requested that she clean the downstairs bathroom, normally little used but this time filthy with dirt and soil; he also asked her how often she emptied out her vacuum cleaner bag (she brought her own vacuum cleaner).The woman didnít know about Susanís disappearance at the time; only lateróunfortunately after she had disposed of the contents of the bagódid she learn of it, and then she went to the police to report her suspicions.My theory is that Jim was filthy when he walked back from the Light Rail on August 6, because heíd lugged and buried a body.His story about having been jogging earlier in the day would cover him if anyone had seen him walking back from the train stop in the afternoon, and the soil in the downstairs bathroom was the result of his hastily changing clothes after returning home and realizing the cops were looking for him.

 

Further evidence built up over the next few months.A utility worker said heíd been repairing electric lines following a power outage Friday night, and from his aerial bucket above and to the east of Jimís house he heard a car door slam and saw a car leave Jimís driveway around 4 a.m., heading west.He couldnít make out the car, but said it could have been a Saab, the make of Susanís.This added more to my familyís theory about what had happened: Jim probably accidentally killed Susan in a rage, realized she was dead, panicked and waited a few hours trying to figure out what to do, then when he thought few cars would be on the road drove her body in her car to some remote spot he knew of (heíd grown up in Baltimore County and knew all the back roads), dragged her some distance from the road and buried her in a shallow grave, drove her car somewhere and disposed of it, then took public transportation into Baltimore, wandered around all day, then took the Light Rail home.

 

When Susanís car was found at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. three and a half weeks later, this theory seemed to be borne out: public transportation back to Baltimore from the airport was simple.Jim finally consented to take a lie detector test in November, and he failed it badly.Additional circumstantial evidence accumulated over the following months and years.Jimís propensity for violence was seen in assaults on officers on three occasions when he was charged with dangerous intoxicated behavior, and former colleagues at McCormick Spice Company, where Jim had been chief financial officer until taking early retirement, rumored of his tendency towards temper eruptions.Police records, medical records, and testimony from a forensic psychiatrist came to light, supporting Susanís allegations of Jimís abusiveness.Furthermore, although Jim claimed to love Susan and be distressed by her disappearance, he never made one effort to look for her, while her siblings and sons hired private investigators, put up posters and a billboard, kept at the media, and relentlessly searched for her.After Susanís remains were found in Wolfsville, Jim claimed never to have been to that area, yet our private investigator found a very credible witness who remembered Jim and Susan visiting that area about a year before her disappearance.We suspect he knew this would be a good place to dispose of a body.†††††

 

Had the police done their job and the prosecutor done hers, Jim Harrison would have been arrested and tried.The cops did a sloppy examination of Susanís car.They did not do a forensic analysis of the soil on the tires, which could have enabled them to find out where the car had been driven and where Susanís body had been disposed of.Had they done that, Susanís body would probably have been found much earlier.The police also could have used a bloodhound to help figure out who had been the last person to drive the car.But they didnít do that either, nor, as far as I know, did they note what position the driverís seat was in. In addition, the police waited too long (over three months) to get a warrant to search the house, operated under the mistaken theory that they could get Jim to confess, and blew many opportunities (see my book for details).

 

The prosecutor had no experience with murder cases (because of a jurisdictional disputeóit could not be determined whether the murder occurred in Baltimore County or Frederick Countyóthe case was given to the attorney generalís office) and seemed afraid to go up against the formidable, aggressive lawyer Jim had hired.After two years of handling the case, she called off the investigation due to ďlack of sufficient evidenceMy family was outraged: we have researched and followed numerous cases with less compelling evidence that were prosecuted.We suspect that, like O.J. Simpson, Jim Harrison, because of his wealth and clout, was treated differently than the average Joe would have been.

Molly Hurley Moran (Susanís sister)