Third day of testimony for woman accused in husband's murder - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Third day of testimony for woman accused in husband's murder

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VISTA (CBS 8/CNS) - Closing arguments begin Friday in the trial of a Carlsbad mother of three accused of fatally shooting her husband.

Julie Elizabeth Harper is charged in the Aug. 7, 2012, death of Jason Harper, 39, a math teacher and volleyball coach at Carlsbad High School. She filed for divorce five days before the killing.

Wednesday, the defense wrapped up its case and 41-year-old Harper testified that she killed Jason Harper in self-defense. She says he was trying to rape and kill her when she fired the gun.

Harper also explained that she buried the weapon in order to preserve it for evidence in an area of Normal Heights that she struggled to find on a map.

During court proceedings Tuesday - her second day on the stand - Harper claimed in her volatile marriage of more than a decade that her husband had been verbally and physically abusive, and had raped her at least 30 times. She testified that in the days leading up to the shooting, she had been sleeping with a loaded handgun under her pillow.

Harper told the court that on the morning of the shooting, she awoke to her husband "yelling and screaming" about a missing computer and she felt boxes and bins falling on her legs. Jason Harper then left, but the couple began fighting again upon his return.

At some point during the altercation, she told her husband that she had filed for divorce, she said.

The argument escalated, and Harper said her husband went into an "absolute fury," and started yanking her top and bottoms off, she said. He pushed her onto a chaise lounge chair in the couple's bedroom, but she managed to get away and grab the gun.

"I didn't even intend to shoot him, I only wanted to scare him or to make him stop -- not rape me, not hurt me or possibly even worse," she testified during this afternoon's cross examination.

Harper said her husband ran toward her, screaming "I'm going to kill you, you (expletive) b----."

"The next thing I knew, I felt my hand jerk and heard a loud noise, and he was still coming forward at me," she said. "And then, all of a sudden, he froze completely and just, like a tree in a forest, fell forward at me."

She said was hesitant to approach him because he may have been "playing possum," but after realizing he was dead, covered his body in blankets and other items.

She then took her children to a coffee shop. She took the gun with her, along with items for her children and a "safety bag," containing important papers, cash, medications and other items that she had been keeping in her car.

Harper testified that she later met her father at his office, and she told him she had killed Jason Harper in self-defense. She said buried the gun a couple blocks away. It has not been found.

She later told her 8-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter that their father had fallen off a chair and "daddy has died."

The defendant surrendered to police the day after the shooting at her father's Scripps Ranch home.

She faces up to 50 years to life in prison if convicted.

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