VISTA, Calif. – The mother of a Carlsbad teacher who was shot and killed took the stand Tuesday to testify against her daughter-in-law.
It was the second day in the retrial of Julie Harper. She maintains she shot and killed her husband, Jason, in self-defense.
Lina Harper told a very different version of their marriage in court. She said she had concerns about the relationship from the start.
“While they were dating, she did break up with him because she wasn’t sure that she wanted to be with just a teacher,” said Lina.
She said in November 2009 was when she first noticed a change. Lina said that was when Julie handed her a written document about how family holidays would be conducted.
“We were given a printed, what I called an edict, of how holidays would be celebrated after that,” said Lina. “It said they would be in charge of hosting and we were not to arrive before 3 p.m. and stay past a certain time.”
She said shortly after, she noticed a significant weight gain in Julie and their home became very cluttered.
“There was not even any place to sit in their bedroom,” said Lina.
She said she took pictures of the filled bedroom and bathroom.
“There were things stacked between her sink and Jason’s sink, including a large Macy’s shopping bag with a lot of empty pill bottles,” said Lina.
Lina said the pills were all prescribed to Julie Harper.
Defense attorneys argued Julie suffers from a number of health problems, including an autoimmune disease and plantar fasciitis.
Attorney Paul Pfingst asked Lina if she knew of the difficulty Julie had with lifting children into the car seat or the pain she suffered in her feet. She said no.
The victim’s mother also testified in November of 2011 that her son called and said his marriage was over.
She said relations with Julie Harper became further strained when Jason told her about fraudulent checks written against his credit card account.
“I have compared this signature with canceled checks he had, endorsed checks we have from him. The signature on the check doesn’t resemble his writing. It’s Julie’s,” said Lina.
Lina said Jason was upset when he learned of the checks.
Defense attorneys argued Julie Harper was the victim of domestic violence, often enduring her husband’s mental and physical abuse. Julie Harper has testified Jason raped her more than 30 times.
“I never knew there to be any violence in the home,” said Lina.
Prosecutors asked Lina if she saw any signs or fear or ever noticed any bruises or injuries on Julie.
“No,” said Lina.
Lina said the last time she saw and spoke to her son was the night before Jason’s death when he and the children were forced to leave a family dinner.
“She just suddenly jumped up and said they had to leave,” said Lina. “I can’t even remember if I got a hug from Jason that night. They were rushed out. I was so upset with Julie.”
Lina said that night she worried about her son.
“I left a message asking him about next day’s schedule, but I also said are you safe?" said Lina. "Something about it just didn’t feel right."
It would be the next morning that she would learn of Jason’s death.
“I screamed, it’s too final! She couldn’t have, she couldn’t have! It’s just too final!”
Since Jason’s death, the couple’s three children have been living with Lina and her husband Homer. Lina was asked if she had a good relationship with the children.
“Oh yes. I tell them I love them every night and I cry when I put them to bed,” said Lina through tears.
Jake and Jackie Harper, the two eldest children of Jason and Julie Harper, are also expected to testify.