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Unsolved murder case is the talk of small Texas town 17 years later

Murder on Red River
Murder on Red River 43:04

Produced by Marcelena Spencer and Dena Goldstein

[This story first aired on May 19, 2018]

Jennifer Harris was 28 when she disappeared on May 12, 2002. Her Jeep was found abandoned on the side of the road. Six days later, a fisherman found her nude body floating in the Red River.

Police learned Jennifer had told at least one other person she was pregnant. Initially, while she was missing, police reached out to the two men in her life – James Hamilton, her ex-boyfriend, and Rob Holman, her ex-husband. Both denied seeing her the night she disappeared.  Both have denied being involved in the murder and neither has been arrested or charged with any crime related to Harris' murder.

Every month, the Riders for Justice saddle up for Jennifer Harris. CBS News

The case grew cold and along the way became part of the Bonham folklore – and its rumor mill.

In 2017, then-newly elected Fannin County Sheriff Mark Johnson made good on a campaign promise to take a second look at the Jennifer Harris case. What he found was limited information and some evidence that had been damaged and destroyed by water getting into a storage pod. Johnson says he believes other evidence may have been mishandled.

Daryl Parker, a former sheriff's lieutenant and Marine, is now a private investigator working with Harris' family to find answers. "If anything happens in this case, rain or shine, anytime of day, I'm on it," Parker says.

Also trying to solve the case is Barry Wernick, a filmmaker married to Harris' sister, Alyssa. He began working on the project two years ago. He says he's done interviews with people who were not interviewed by law enforcement early on and is following up on any leads he gets.

"Finding the killer and actually being able to prove who the killer is, will that actually be able to provide closure? Well, yeah, for my family it will," says Wernick.

"It doesn't get any easier," says Alyssa Wernick. "There's not one day that I don't wake up and think about my sister."

Will Parker, Wernick or Sheriff Johnson be able to solve the case?


In the northeast corner of Texas, where the banks of the Red River touch Oklahoma, you'll find Fannin County and the town of Bonham, one of the oldest cities in the Lone Star State.

And it's where, Mark Johnson, who had just wrapped up 32 years in law enforcement, decided to ditch retirement and run for sheriff in 2016.

Sheriff Mark Johnson:  I met Jerry Harris, the father of the young lady, on the campaign trail…

And he made a promise, from one father to another, to continue the investigation into the murder of Jerry's oldest daughter, 28-year-old Jennifer Harris -- a case unsolved for more than 15 years.

Sheriff Mark Johnson: When I came here January 1 and took over … I demanded that case be brought to me.

Jim Axelrod: That was the first thing you did?

Sheriff Mark Johnson: Yes. I wanted the Jennifer Harris case

Jennifer's father, a Marine and Vietnam veteran, finally has hope.

Jerry Harris: I think he's serious about trying to solve this case.

And he's not the only one. For the last eight years, Daryl Parker has been working with Jerry Harris to solve his daughter's murder; first as a lieutenant in the Fannin County Sheriff's Office, and now as a private investigator.

Daryl Parker: A Marine never meets a stranger if he meets another Marine.

He too was a Marine and Parker has never charged Jerry a dime.

Daryl Parker: I still have a lot of that Captain America justice kinda thing goin' on.  …I want Jerry and his family to find justice.

Jennifer "was the red-haired girl who was the goof ball … adorable… loveable …Lucille Ball-type," says sister Alyssa Wernick. Harris family

In high school, Jennifer Harris was popular and athletic.

Jerry Harris: … brilliant red-haired girl … bright brown eyes, who played tennis … and was a cheerleader…

Alyssa Wernick: … she was [sighs] amazing. …She was the red-haired girl who was the goof ball … adorable… loveable …Lucille Ball-type. …She smothered me with love.

Jennifer "was a dreamer" says her younger sister, Alyssa.

Alyssa Wernick: She was an idealist. And she knew that there was a bigger world outside of Bonham, Texas.

Daryl Parker: Bonham is probably your prototypical Small Town, USA … Gossip is on an epic scale.

Jim Axelrod: When Jennifer Harris goes missing, how does that news play in Bonham?

Daryl Parker: It was a bombshell. Because … this girl was not too removed from high school. To understand that she had been murdered -- it disturbed a lot of people.

Jerry Harris: She was only 28 years old. She was just beginning to come into her own right when she was murdered.

Sheriff Mark Johnson: The day that I came in here and looked at her case … and opened those boxes, I wanted to sit down on the floor and cry.

That's because after more than 15 years, they don't have a lot to work with.  

"That's the Jennifer Harris case, everything that's involved," Sheriff Mark Johnson tells CBS News' Jim Axelrod of the handful of boxes on a rolling cart. CBS News

Jim Axelrod: And what do we have in each of these boxes?

Sheriff Mark  Johnson: This is all the documentation that's in there … you know, when she first came up missing … this is a poster they're looking for her … newspaper articles, business records … and this is just some case reports.

Sheriff Mark Johnson: Now this is wet. A lot of the stuff got wet … They had some pods out back. …They stored a lot of evidence. …They leaked … a lot of stuff got wet.

Jim Axelrod: Contaminated.

Sheriff Mark Johnson: Yes. Some of it got destroyed.

Daryl Parker: The file was very light … Duplicates of the same paperwork over and over and over again … it was a mess.

Although the original investigators have said they did their best, Jennifer's laptop computer and clothing -- a shirt, bra, and jeans that might have been hers -- were booked into evidence but, somehow, mysteriously disappeared. 

Sheriff Mark Johnson: It's just been mishandled.

Jim Axelrod: Why would it be mishandled?

Sheriff Mark Johnson: I honestly don't know. The only thing I can gather out of it is lack of experience, lack of training.

It was Mother's Day 2002. Jennifer was visiting her friend Kristy Farr in the early evening.

Jim Axelrod: It gets to be close to 8:00, and Jennifer's like, "I gotta go"?

Daryl Parker: Correct.

She never told Farr where she was going. But Jennifer Harris never returned home that night. The next day, Jennifer's Jeep was discovered -- parked just down the road from a local music spot.

Alyssa Wernick is determined to find justice for her sister CBS News

Alyssa Wernick: I get a phone call … that her Jeep had been found … What did she do leaving her Jeep on the side of the road?

While she was still missing, authorities reached out to the two men in her life: her former boyfriend and business partner James Hamilton and her ex-husband Rob Holman.

Both agreed to speak with investigators without a lawyer present. They had not been arrested, but both men were read their Miranda rights. And both denied seeing Jennifer the night she disappeared:

JAMES HAMILTON [police interview]: I know I'm not guilty of anything…

JAMES HAMILTON [police interview]: I would love to know that she's OK, she's happy.

According to his police interview, Jennifer's former boyfriend, James Hamilton, was with a friend more than an hour away from Bonham at a McDonalds around the time investigators believe Jennifer disappeared.  He even took -- and passed -- a lie detector test. 

Daryl Parker: He had an alibi for that evening …The alibi checked out.

But ex-husband Rob Holman seemed concerned about his alibi:

ROB HOLMAN [police interview]: I'm just … worried and scared. 'Cause I know that I don't have anybody to say where I was at that night.

Holman told investigators that he had gone out that night to buy beer and visit friends. But when they weren't home, he drove around alone for five hours on the roads of rural Fannin County.

INVESTIGATOR: Sunday when you went riding around, you saw her.

ROB HOLMAN: No, I didn't see her Sunday. I saw a Jeep, but I didn't see -- I don't know whose it was…

But when the investigator pushes harder. It sounds like Holman is admitting he did see her Jeep that night.

INVESTIGATOR: Where'd you see her Jeep?

ROB HOLMAN: I was on 898 at the stop sign by the blinkin' light… then I turned north. She was in front of me. She was comin' from town.

By now, Jennifer had been missing for 72 hours. The search would continue for three more days.

"I was getting about three or four hours a sleep a night … spent the rest of my time … searching, driving country roads …looking for buzzards," Jerry Harris says of his search for Jennifer Red Rabbit Productions in association with TWOBAR Entertainment

Jerry Harris: I was getting about three or four hours a sleep a night … spent the rest of my time … searching, driving country roads …looking for buzzards.

Jim Axelrod: That's a hell of thing for a father to have to do.

Jerry Harris: Well, that's what I did … until they found her.

Jerry Harris: Things seemed to go in slow motion for me. …It was very surreal.

Daryl Parker: There was a fisherman who was fishing on the Red River, he saw a body in the water. …the body is completely naked.

Jim Axelrod: Not a stitch of clothing?

Daryl Parker: Not a sock.

Alyssa Wernick: I remember going to the Red River … to the bridge … seeing  … the police officers, the sheriff … and I remember my dad being right there with them and I just, "Let me see her, let me see her, let me see, is it her? It can't be her [voice breaks] …Is it her? Is it her?  Is it really her? [cries].

Finding Jennifer's body six days after her disappearance devastated her father Jerry. But it did little to clear up the mystery of what had happened to her. She was so badly decomposed the medical examiner couldn't determine the cause of death.

But Jennifer's family believes they know the answer. Her sister Alyssa and her filmmaker husband Barry Wernick are on mission to prove who killed Jennifer and why. 

Barry Wernick: Jennifer's murder impacted my wife and her family, you can't even put it in words.  … This is much more than a passion project, because this is family.

Jim Axelrod: In the time you've been looking into this, have you gone from … "I want the facts to shape my opinion" to now having a sense of who killed Jennifer?

Barry Wernick: Absolutely.


Alyssa Wernick: To think about how beautiful she was and her red hair and just how -- [sighs] and to think about how she was found. That's what um, that's what I just can't let go of until justice is done.

Barry Wernick married Jennifer Harris' sister Alyssa eight years after Jennifer's murder.

Barry Wernick: When Alyssa first told me about her sister's murder … the first thing that came to my mind was, "Who did it? Do you know who did it? " …All these things started going through my mind.

Filmmakers Michael Barnett, left, and Barry Wernick  CBS News

The Wernicks are determined to answer those questions by making a docuseries, "Justice for Jennifer." Barry, an experienced filmmaker, was a consultant on this broadcast.

Barry Wernick: I felt like I could use my filmmaking ability to do our own investigating, because it didn't seem like anyone was doing it.

He is working hand-in-hand with Daryl Parker and another private eye, Jim Holloway, re-examining everything. 

Jim Axelrod:  We are in a place -- this is central to your theory of what happened.

Daryl Parker: Yes.

The reason why Daryl Parker is so sure of where Jennifer died is because of a clue that lies on the river's floor a short way down the dirt road.   

Daryl Parker: She had some blue mud … on the front of her … according to fishermen there are only two spots on the river within several miles that that mud is on the bottom.

And the river bank is one of those spots.

Daryl Parker [at the river bank]: This is that blue marl mud that was on the body. 

Not far from the river bank there used to be the original caretaker's cottage.

 "This is where the original caretaker's cottage was," Parker tells Axelrod.

Daryl Parker: And it just so happened that it burned down the night Jennifer Harris disappeared.

Parker suspects Jennifer left her friend Kristy Farr's house and met her killer here. He believes the cottage was burned to hide the evidence. 

Jim Holloway:  No godly Earth reason for that shack to burn at the same night Jennifer comes up missin'.

Parker hoped to find clues here.

Daryl Parker: We came here … with a crew and excavated the whole thing …15 feet that way [pointing] to another 10 feet that way on either side of this foundation.

Jim Axelrod: I see a well.

Daryl Parker: We drained the well. …And then we dug down in the muck, probably a foot or two … We didn't come up with anything.

But years of coming up empty hasn't deterred Daryl Parker or Barry and Alyssa Wernick. And it hasn't shaken their conviction of who killed Jennifer.

Alyssa Wernick: When I think about Jennifer, I think about Jennifer and Rob.

Rob and Jennifer were together for as long as anyone can remember. She was a sixth- grader when she began dating Rob, a fifth-grader. By high school the teenagers were practically inseparable, says Jennifer's cousin, Susan Bowen.

Susan Bowen: He was just part of our family from the time we were growing up. …Jennifer was just in love with him, she just adored everything about him.

Jennifer had big dreams -- bigger than could take flight in small town Bonham.

Jerry Harris: Jennifer had potential to explore greater horizons than just Fannin County, Texas.

Jennifer and Ron Holman Harris family

She moved three hours away to go to college. A few years later, Rob followed her there, and the couple married in 1996.

Alyssa Wernick: It was gorgeous. It was … meticulously planned at a … very beautiful mansion out in the country.

One year after the wedding, Jennifer's mother died of cancer.

Alyssa Wernick: You could tell she had learned a lot … in the few years that we lost our mother … she became an adult that was very open-minded.

In 1999, the couple bought a house in suburban Dallas, but there was friction brewing.

Alyssa Wernick: I think that my sister was growing and evolving and moving forward in her life and Rob was stuck and he just wasn't gonna change.

According to Jennifer's family, Rob, who was working in landscaping, preferred the slower pace of rural Bonham while she enjoyed living near a big city. Jennifer embraced a holistic lifestyle and enrolled in massage therapy school.

Alyssa Wernick: She transformed in front of my eyes … She said that she had met someone who was like-minded and who wanted to start a business that was a massage and wellness center.

That someone was James Hamilton -- someone she'd met in that massage therapy school.

Alyssa Wernick:  He was different, but --

Jim Axelrod: In what way?

Alyssa Wernick: Well, he was new age and –

Jim Axelrod: Touchy-feely?

Alyssa Wernick: A little bit.

Their relationship was complicated. Hamilton was living with the mother of his child, and had another on the way. Jennifer was still married to Rob.

Alyssa Wernick:  I told her that it was not a good idea, that I –

Jim Axelrod: And what did she say?

Alyssa Wernick: She didn't tell me a lot after that. [laughs] She knew where I stood.

Jerry Harris: I went up there to see what was going on in their lives.

When Jennifer's father got there he was shocked to see holes in the wall. While no one knows for sure how they got there, Jerry seems certain Holman was responsible.

Jerry Harris: He took his fist and knocked five holes in the living room wall about as big as a softball…

Jerry remembers the holes in the wall. Alyssa remembers something worse. 

Alyssa Wernick: My sister called me one night and was shaking in her voice…

She says Jennifer told her Rob came home drunk and forced himself on her. Jennifer never reported the alleged attack. But Rob would later tell police, after her disappearance, that Jennifer was the violent one in the relationship:

ROB HOLMAN [police interview]:  She was hot-tempered when we were married. And it was generally her way or no way. …Sometimes I'd grab her, wrap her up, keep her from hittin' and s---.

Jennifer Harris with James Hamilton in December 2001 Harris family

Rob moved back to Bonham, and Jennifer's new love interest, James Hamilton, moved in with her. They became partners in a massage therapy business in suburban Dallas. But Jennifer's infatuation with Hamilton quickly faded.

Jerry Harris: James wanted to marry her. And she refused to marry him. … And he was very -- upset about that.

The private investigators say Jennifer's relationship with Hamilton was rocky.

Jim Holloway: Real fiery. Just -- fussin' and fightin' at each other all the time.

Jim Axelrod: By the spring of 2002, your sister is leading one complicated life emotionally.

Alyssa Wernick: Mm-hmm [affirms].

Jennifer had divorced Holman and her relationship with Hamilton was on the skids. To add to the chaos, the massage business had failed and Jennifer was forced to file for bankruptcy.

Alyssa Wernick: I think that everything was catching up to her and she never really grieved my mom's death and I think she was exhausted.

Susan Bowen: She said, "I'm not happy … I don't care about the business anymore."

With no job or income, Jennifer confided in cousin Susan Bowen that she'd been back in touch with her former husband Rob Holman, who now had a new girlfriend.

Susan Bowen: And she said, "I still love him," and she said, "I want him back." And she said, "I even told him that."

In fact, Holman later admitted to police, that even though he had a girlfriend, he and Jennifer were still having sex.

INVESTIGATOR: Four or five times since Christmas?


Jim Axelrod: So Jennifer was living a little bit of a split life?

Susan Bowen: To a certain extent. But James didn't know it. He knew nothing about it all.

Then one day Bowen saw Jennifer outside her apartment with a moving truck.

Susan Bowen: I said, "What are you doing?" And she said, "I'm moving to Bonham." …I thought, "You're only going to Bonham because Rob's in Bonham." … "OK." And with that I turned around and left. And that was the last time I ever saw her.

About six weeks later, Jennifer disappeared. On the very day she went missing, she called Holman. Rob says she asked to see him, but he refused.

ROB HOLMAN [police interview] I'd had plans with my girlfriend … she got real upset 'cause it was Mother's Day and I wouldn't come over.

Holman agreed to take a polygraph to back up his story, but for some reason it was never administered. Sheriff's investigators allowed him to go home. They had a lot more digging to do and it centered around a secret Jennifer had shared with her best friend Jyl Wagner just weeks before she died.

JYL WAGNER [police interview]: We started talking and she said, "You're not going to believe the mess I'm in." And she told me how, you know, and I pretty much guessed, I was like, "you're pregnant."

If Jennifer was pregnant, who was the father?  Was it Rob Holman or someone else?  That question became even more important after the medical examiner's autopsy revealed a stunning piece of information.


When they examined Jennifer Harris' body, investigators were shocked.

Daryl Parker: There was a wound that affected some of the internal organs.

Her uterus was missing.

LOCAL NEWS REPORT: Her death was classified as a quote "violent homicide." Her uterus had somehow been removed.

Daryl Parker:  The question was … What damaged her?

Jim Axelrod: What would've the motive been?

Daryl Parker: …that she was possibly pregnant, and that the person who killed her was trying to destroy that evidence…

In Bonham, where gossip is often taken for gospel, people couldn't stop talking. 

Daryl Parker: The public grabbed a hold of that information and they started concocting their own theories as to who did it and why

But according the case file, there was no scientific evidence to prove Jennifer was actually pregnant at the time of her death.

Still, Jennifer's best friend Jyl Wagner told investigators she had talked to Jennifer about being pregnant. And, that's not all she said. 

JYL WAGNER [police interview]: You know, she told me that it was Rob's and I was kinda shocked…

Rob Holman -- Jennifer's ex-husband. He had revealed to detectives, in his police interview, that he had met Jennifer a month before she disappeared, near a drive-in movie theatre:

ROB HOLMAN [police interview]: She told me that she was pregnant and that it was mine…

Alyssa Wernick: I definitely think that she brought it up with Rob and in my mind that's what led to her death.

Daryl Parker had long been familiar with the story of Jennifer being pregnant. Eight years after her murder, Parker, then a lieutenant for the sheriff's department, dropped by Rob Holman's house. It was Sunday. Mother's Day. A calculated move by Parker.

Daryl Parker: It was the anniversary of the crime. I had … picked out of number of photographs of her and Rob, one of those being Jennifer swimming in a muddy body of water … and when I gave him the stack of photographs, the very first one he picked out was that one with the muddy water. He stood there for about five to six seconds staring at that photograph.

Jim Axelrod: But that's the one that caught his attention?

Daryl Parker: Like that [snaps fingers]. You know, I said, "well, if you want to talk, call me," and I gave him my card and I left.

A few hours later, to his surprise, Holman called and wanted to talk. But Parker had wanted to record the interview so he suggested they meet at the sheriff's office the next day.

Daryl Parker: That's where I screwed up … I should have gone right then and there … I think he was ready to talk and say something. And I should have just done it [becomes emotional].

Jim Axelrod: This really has you, still. Why so emotional Daryl? …You're really blaming yourself here?

Daryl Parker [wipes away a tear]: Well, the previous investigation, it failed in so many ways. … But he was responding to me. He was responding to the pressure I was putting on him and I let it slip away.

When Holman arrived for the interview with Parker, he had a lawyer:

DARYL PARKER: Did you have anything to do with the death of Jennifer Harris?


DARYL PARKER: Jennifer's pregnancy … Did you believe she was pregnant?

ROB HOLMAN: No, I didn't think she was.

DARYL PARKER: Did you think she believed she was pregnant?


Remember, there was no evidence Jennifer was pregnant and, in fact, forensic experts in Dallas would later conclude Jennifer's missing uterus wasn't even cut out by the killer. Instead, her uterus and other body parts were destroyed by turtles and fish in the river. But the rumors persisted and they had plenty of company in Bonham.

A year after Jennifer's murder, Myles Porter found himself in the center of the storm.

Myles Porter: They were saying that I had been arrested for this murder.  

Jim Axelrod: I mean you hear this, and what's your reaction?

Myles Porter:  "What are you talking about? Where did this come from? That's crazy."

Crazy, because Porter was also the district attorney at the time overseeing the case. 

Jim Axelrod: For the record, did you know Jennifer Harris?

Myles Porter:  No. 

Jim Axelrod: Had you ever met Jennifer Harris? 

Myles Porter:  No.

Jim Axelrod: Did you kill Jennifer Harris?

Myles Porter: Absolutely not.

Porter says locals cooked up the story because they had a grudge against him over an unrelated case he tried.

Jim Axelrod: Did this cost you your job?

Myles Porter: Yeah, no doubt.

Myles Porter
Myles Porter. the D.A. overseeing the Harris case at the time, says locals cooked up the story that he killed Jennifer because they had a grudge against him over an unrelated case he tried.  CBS News

Myles Porter blames losing his re-election on the Jennifer Harris gossip.  Now in private practice, Porter still lives with the fallout from the unfounded allegations.

Myles Porter: I've had, on a number of occasion, random people throughout the county say, "I can't be fair in this case because you're the lawyer and I think you killed Jennifer Harris." Crazy.

Jim Axelrod: Fourteen, 15 years later?

Myles Porter: Absolutely, still happens.

Daryl Parker: …in the court of public opinion, he was definitely a suspect.

Jim Axelrod: Meanwhile, there's no shred of evidence that he was connected at all?

Daryl Parker: None.

Daryl Parker thinks he knows who's responsible.

Daryl Parker: Not Myles Porter, not James Hamilton, not a random stranger … In my view, the evidence points directly to Rob Holman.

Filmmaker Barry Wernick agrees.

Barry Wernick: We were gonna let the facts take us where the facts took us, and where it brought us was to one person that it had to be. 

But they haven't been able to physically connect Rob Holman to Jennifer Harris the night of her disappearance. They're both hoping Rhonda Fitzwater can.

Barry Wernick: We need that eyewitness.

Jim Axelrod: And in your view Rhonda Fitzwater is that eyewitness?

Barry Wernick: Yes.


On a rural road in Fannin County, Texas, Rhonda Fitzwater could hold the key to Daryl Parker and Barry Wernick's theory that Rob Holman met up with Jennifer Harris that night. 

Jim Axelrod: On Mother's Day, 2002, no different than any other day, you take the walk.

Rhonda Fitzwater: Right …I saw a Jeep, but I didn't think anything about it … But then when it was here the second day, you're, like, "Why is that Jeep still here?"

Jim Axelrod: So what do you make of this idea that somehow you saw Jennifer Harris and Rob Holman?

Rhonda Fitzwater: I've not ever heard that until you told me that.  

Fitzwater has always insisted that all she saw that night was Jennifer's parked Jeep. 

Jim Axelrod: Did you see anybody following the Jeep?

Rhonda Fitzwater: No. It was already parked.

Jim Axelrod: Did you see Jennifer Harris?

Rhonda Fitzwater: No, not at all.

But for years, Parker and Wernick have believed there is more to Rhonda Fitzwater's story. Only she says they are sorely mistaken. After 15 years of investigation by people closely connected to Bonham, maybe the best thing anyone can hope for is a fresh set of eyes.

Joe Moura: I'm flying out to Dallas, Texas … my job is to really look at the facts of the case, study the case. 

Could the questions about a murder in Bonham be answered by someone 1,700 miles away in Boston? Meet Joe Moura, a private investigator and CBS News consultant.

Jim Axelrod: Jennifer's been dead 15 years by the time you're looking at the file.

Joe Moura: Absolutely, yeah

Jim Axelrod: What'd you make of that collection of papers?

Joe Moura: I thought the file was very weak, meaning that the investigation that went into it was extremely weak.

"48 Hours" brought Moura to Texas to take a closer look at the Jennifer Harris case.

Joe Moura: You gotta speak to people. And that's what I've done.

His first stop is Fannin County Sheriff Mark Johnson.

Joe Moura:  I can see your frustration where …you're in the job for one -- one year you got the public -- I'm sure the family still wants to know what happened to their daughter.

Sheriff Mark Johnson: There's no -- no physical evidence. That's the problem.

In fact, today the sheriff won't call either Rob Holman or James Hamilton suspects, even though detectives did early in the investigation in their case documents.  

Jim Axelrod:  How come you can't call them suspects? 

Sheriff Mark Johnson: You have things that lead up to 'em, that draw your interest to 'em to make them a person of interest, but you don't have that connection to make them a suspect where you can tie some physical evidence in to them. 

Filmmaker Barry Wernick took Moura to the location of the cottage private investigators Parker and Holloway had come to believe was burned to hide the evidence of Jennifer's murder.

Joe Moura: This stuff, Jim ,with a burning shed … there's all kinds of theories about that ... now, you just murdered somebody … but about 200 yards away from where you are disposing of the body in the river, let's light up this shed in fire, attract people.

Jim Axelrod: Makes no sense to you

Joe Moura: Absolutely not. …it certainly can't tie it to this case, but people are trying to make it tie in.

Wernick also brought him to the bank of the Red River, where he believes his sister-in-law's body was dumped. 

Joe Moura: There's nothing on the records of the case or any eyewitnesses that will tell you that this is where her body was disposed.

Barry Wernick: Right

Joe Moura: So, we're just here basically guessing.

Discussing the Harris case, from left, private investigator and CBS News consultant Joe Moura, CBS News' Jim Axelrod and private investigators Jim Holloway and Daryl Parker CBS News

Moura sat down with the private eyes who had been working the case for nearly a decade. 

Jim Holloway: To me, I think it boils down to who had the most to lose by killin' her or not killin' her? Eighteen years of child support? Maybe? Maybe not?

ROB HOLMAN [police interview]: She told me that she was pregnant and that it was mine…

Daryl Parker: I don't think that we need to speculate about Rob Holman's motive … because he made it clear that she was applying pressure to him.

Jim Axelrod: …and there could be no more intense pressure than "I'm about to have a baby and you're the father?"

Jim Holloway: That's right.

Joe Moura: You have to consider it … however he disbelieves her and he admits that in the interviews. He actually said it, "I don't believe it and I don't think she is pregnant."

DARYL PARKER: Did you believe she was pregnant?

ROB HOLMAN: No. I didn't think she was.

For his part, Moura was surprised authorities seemed to quickly disregard James Hamilton, the ex-boyfriend who wanted to marry Jennifer before she left him when their business failed. 

Joe Moura: She covered all the finances for the business, she's the one that put her name on the loans.

Jennifer's father Jerry made notes that two months after Jennifer's death, Hamilton called him asking about her life insurance policy.

Joe Moura: In my experience, money, insurances, all that stuff is a big deal. Money creates a lot of motive for a lot of people.

What's more, he believes investigators bought Hamilton's alibi -- that he was with a friend at that McDonalds more than 50 miles away -- without thoroughly vetting it.

Joe Moura: And I'm not so thrilled about the checking they did on that alibi.

Daryl Parker: No.

Joe Moura: The one thing is you go check with the alibis … And the next thing you -- you look at, "Are these alibis lying to me?" So you gotta go check that out. That was never done. Why?

To Joe Moura, the investigation was flawed from the outset. And had authorities approached it differently, they may have gotten more from their interviews.  

Joe Moura: Here's what bothers me about this situation. It's a missing person. They're calling people, talking to people about a missing person, and the first thing they do is read you Miranda warnings.

INVESTIGATOR: So, you have the right to remain silent … Do you understand all that?


Joe Moura: Now that is unheard of.

Jim Axelrod: You're saying that sure, Rob said I don't have an alibi and that might be incriminating….

Joe Moura: That was after he already signed the Miranda warning. So he's already nervous and he's already saying, "Oh I'm being charged. God, I don't have an alibi" … of course he was nervous. Most people would be.

But at the end of the day, the men who've been working this case for years see it very differently than the man with the fresh set of eyes. 

Daryl Parker: …circumstantially there is a lot of evidence in this case.

Daryl Parker: …It is all circumstantial.

Joe Moura: But Daryl, I think me and you are a little confused in reference to circumstantial … I'm saying to you and I submit to you that there's very little circumstantial evidence, OK?

Daryl Parker: We'll have to agree to disagree.

Joe Moura: Well, because I am asking you to give me the facts on what your circumstantial evidence is --

Daryl Parker: Sure.

Joe Moura:  --and it's based on theory … and theory ain't gonna cut it.

Like Daryl Parker's theory about Rhonda Fitzwater knowing more. 

Joe Moura: Everybody's putting all the weight on this woman and she has nothing to offer to the case. Only that yeah, that Jeep was there. Well, we know the Jeep was there.

The Red River Bridge CBS News

But what Joe Moura does find interesting in the case file is one of the least examined parts of the story. One year after Jennifer's murder, Deborah Lambert -- who had seen a news report about the unsolved case -- told detectives she saw something when she was driving across the Red River Bridge on Mother's Day. 

DEBRA LAMBERT [police interview]: ...there was three guys out there and a girl. And two guys had the girl by her elbows and it was like she was trying to get away from them and they were restraining her…

The girl she says she saw had reddish-brown hair.

DEBORAH LAMBERT [police interview]: …I made eye contact with her and … she was scared, terrified look on her face… my mom seen her too and she said "that girl's fixin' to get raped and killed" …

But Lambert never called police back then. She said she was too afraid to get involved. What's more, her story didn't fit with the investigators' timeline. She put Jennifer near the bridge at 5 p.m., but detectives believed Jennifer left her friend Kristy's Farr's house around 8 p.m.

Jim Axelrod: Deborah Lambert's saying what she saw, she saw at 5 o'clock. That's not a deal breaker for you.

Joe Moura: Absolutely not … In the real world, people are not looking at their watches and clocks all the time … she may be wrong on her time and not wrong on what she witnessed.

Could Deborah Lambert hold the answer to who killed Jennifer Harris?


Every month, the Riders for Justice, ride for Jennifer Harris.

"Jennifer Harris was well loved here," says Forrest Morris of Riders for Justice CBS News

Forrest Morris: What Riding for Justice has done is reached out to people that knew Jennifer Harris.

Jim Axelrod: Something has touched the people of Fannin County about this case.

Forrest Morris: Absolutely.  …Everybody in this county wants to see this case solved.

Teresa Morris: To let somethin' like this go on this long is uncalled for.

Forrest Morris: Jennifer Harris was well loved here.  

A year-and-a-half after Jennifer's murder, the Texas Rangers launched their own investigation into the case. They reinterviewed Deborah Lambert.

Joe Moura: The story was the same … She was very detailed. Redhead, three guys, two were wearing jeans, one was wearing shorts

Lambert was asked to look at a photo lineup to see if she recognized any of the men the woman was with. She did. She was very clear that one of the men she saw was Rob Holman.

Joe Moura: Maybe Mrs. Lambert is believable. …Now the situation is, is I worry about how is that lineup done? How many photographs do they show? In other words, do they have a good old boy -- Texan boy there with his baseball cap on? And then they had three Mexican photos next to him, OK? Those are the things I worry about.

Jim Axelrod: The way that the lineup was conducted, we don't know anything about.

Joe Moura: No, and that's -- that's crucial.

But Moura can't be confident because there are no details in the case file about how the lineup was done. Still, Moura considers Deborah Lambert a missed opportunity to potentially solve Jennifer's murder.

Joe Moura: There's an open lead there that I feel wasn't closed … therefore until that lead is closed, it's problematic to say, "I'm gonna disregard what this woman saw and I'm still gonna focus on Rob and James."

Rob Holman, on the advice of his attorney back then, declined to speak with the Texas Rangers. After working the case for a year, they suspended their investigation. "48 Hours" wanted to know why, but they wouldn't comment on an unsolved case. The conclusion to their report: "No physical evidence, specific cause of death, or credible witnesses … link any particular person as a suspect."

No one can actually follow up with Debra Lambert. She and her mother have both passed away.  But Alyssa and Barry Wernick now cling to Lambert's story.

Alyssa Wernick: In my mind I always just believed that she got in the truck with Rob and it was just the two of 'em. This changes everything. There are other people that know. There are other people that could possibly speak up.

Barry Wernick: Now knowing that there were two other people involved, oh, yeah. There is renewed hope.

Jim  Axelrod: The problem here, I suppose, is that Deborah Lambert's dead?

Barry Wernick: She is dead but her -- her interview isn't. She's alive. You can see what she said.

Neither James Hamilton nor Rob Holman have ever been arrested or charged with any crime related to Jennifer's murder. During "48 Hours"' reporting of this case, we made several attempts to contact both men:

JIM AXELROD [on phone leaving message]: James, if this is your number, I'm calling to follow up on a letter I sent you recently.

"48 Hours" got no response.  

ROB HOLMAN [voicemail]: This is Rob. I can't take your call right now.

JIM AXELROD: [on phone leaving message]: We sent you a letter a couple of weeks ago.

So, on one of "48 Hours"' trips to Texas, we went to Rob Holman's home.  

Jim Axelrod: How are ya? Mr. Holman? Jim Axelrod with CBS News.

Rob Holman: Turn that off.

Jim Axelrod: Will you talk to me if I turn that camera off?

Rob Holman: Yeah, I'll talk to you if you turn it off.

Holman told us off camera he never saw Jennifer that night and he's been advised by his attorney not to talk to anyone. His attorney provided this statement to "48 Hours:"

"Robert Holman has neither been arrested nor charged with any criminal conduct as it relates to this investigation. This notwithstanding, Mr. Holman has, from the inception of the investigation, been treated by law enforcement as a suspect. Mr. Holman has maintained his innocence from the very beginning and his position has not wavered."

With no resolution in sight, filmmaker Barry Wernick has a new plan. 

Jim Axelrod: Barry wants to raise $50,000 under the theory that reward money could shake someone loose.

Jim Moura: No shot. …You can't put money out there and thinking that that's gonna create evidence for you.

Joe Moura said as much to the sheriff. 

Joe Moura [to Sheriff Mark Johnson]: This isn't a cold case. This is a frozen case. It's done. It's over.

Joe Moura [to Jim Axelrod]: If you have a prosecutor who's worth his weight, he would never bring this case to trial. He has absolutely nothing on this case.

But Sheriff Johnson is not giving up.

Sheriff Mark Johnson: I want to solve the case. I want it solved and I want it done right.

Neither is private eye Daryl Parker.  

Daryl Parker: When Mr. Harris came to the sheriff's office and he got me involved … I told him that I would get results. And I can't, I can't put it down. …until I'm sure that either the person is held accountable or I can't do anything more, I have to carry it.

Jim Axelrod: And if it takes another 15 years?

Daryl Parker: If it takes another 15 years.

Joe Moura: The sadness is we all have kids. We all have family members. And I have a daughter. It's devastating to not know.

Alyssa Wernick: I don't know how she was killed. I wish I did. I want closure … I'm gonna do everything I can to bring justice for Jennifer. …for my Dad, he needs to see some justice done.

"I'm gonna do everything I can to bring justice for Jennifer. …for my Dad, he needs to see some justice done," says Alyssa Werinck, walking with her father, Jerry. Red Rabbit Productions in association with TWOBAR Entertainment

Jerry Harris: To have walked in my shoes for the last 15-and-a-half years hasn't been easy. … we miss her every day. … we miss Jennifer not bein' here … I still have high hope that justice will prevail.


Jennifer Harris Harris family

Anyone with  information about the Jennifer Harris case is asked to contact the Fannin County Sheriff's Office at 903-583-2143.

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