By their neighbors' accounts they were "the nicest family in the world." Now, however, Julie Harper, 39, has been charged with murder for shooting her husband, Jason Harper, 39, to death last week in their Carlsbad, Calif. home.
According to People, police say after she shot him, she packed up her three kids in their minivan and headed out for a day of what would normally be fun activities. First they went out for breakfast at a local coffee shop, and then she tried to set up a play date with a neighbor. After that, they hit a local indoor playground, and finally she took the kids to her sister's house. She was arrested later in the day.
It's hard to imagine how anyone could go through the motions of a day like that after something so horrific. Maybe she knew she'd be going away soon and wanted to make one last happy memory? Maybe she was in denial? Maybe she just didn't know what else to do? I can't comprehend it, but it's also incomprehensible to imagine how anyone could do that of which she's accused.
Based on what they presented to the world, it makes no sense. They seemed like one big happy family.
According to reports, they lived in a beautiful gated community with a golf course and a country club. He was a popular high school teacher referred to as a "gentle giant" as he stood 6 feet, 9 inches tall. She was a stay-at-home mom.
Though neighbors said they were never seen fighting, there may have been more to their relationship than they saw. According to NBC she had filed for divorce just days before the shooting, and police had been called to their home for a "verbal argument between husband and wife" in November 2011.
Her divorce filing stated, "At times, respondent has become violent with me by pushing me, shoving me, grabbing my arm and twisting my wrists."
Defense attorney Paul Pfingst told NBC San Diego: “People outside the marriage may see one thing, people inside the marriage may see something entirely different. This is one of those marriages.”
It's stories like this that fascinate me most, and make me look around my own neighborhood and wonder what is going behind those doors. Are people really that good at hiding pain and distress, or are we just too busy or self-involved to notice or act on suspicions? I suspect it's a combination of both.
Most of all, I ache for these three innocent children who lost their father, and who will lose their mother in many senses too if she's found guilty (she has pleaded not guilty). I hope they have family or some strong support network to help them cope and not let their young lives be ruined by this horrific event.
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Have you ever been shocked to find out what's happening behind the doors of those you know?
Image via NBC San Diego