Jennifer Harris' family 'more optimistic than ever before' about unsolved murder case

BONHAM, Tex. (KXII) -- The story of Jennifer Harris' murder stunned Texoma back in 2002 and still nobody has been charged in her death, but her family says they're more hopeful than ever before that justice will be served.

"She was very spirited, just very lively," said Alyssa Wernick, Harris' younger sister.

She said not a day goes by that she doesn't think about her, or hope for a resolution in the case.

"After 16 years, it's pretty unfortunate to say the least that the person or persons that were involved in Jennifer's murder have never even had to defend themselves," said her husband, Barry Wernick.

Harris was just 28 when she went missing Mother's Day 2002. Six days later, her naked body was found floating in the Red River by a fisherman.

"It's very frustrating because she was pregnant and I have no doubt she would've been a great mother and that is an additional life that was taken, which is even worse of a crime, it's a double murder," said Alyssa.

An autopsy classified her death as a "violent homicide," her uterus had somehow been removed.

"I've gotten married, had children. These are all things that someone else has possibly gotten to do and they're a murderer," said Alyssa.

But now, things are looking up. The family attributes their renewed hope in the case to the Fannin County Sheriff Mark Johnson.

"Sheriff Johnson has done more in one year than the last 15 years of three previous sheriffs," said Barry. "A lot of it has to do with the fact that we believe he cares."

"The previous sheriff, of course, was not very willing to work with outside help, and so I think we're very excited and optimistic that Sheriff Johnson will allow more of a national exposure on this case," said Alyssa.

Johnson said this is the only open and unsolved murder case in the county. It's not an easy one to take on, considering two of the initial investigators have passed away and several pieces of evidence were mishandled under previous administrations.

"We're looking at some different angles," said Johnson. "We're following any leads that we pick up on it."

Since taking office last January, Johnson has kept Harris' case a top priority. He said recently a hypnosis interview was conducted on a possible witness who came forward.

"We went to Austin and interviewed a young lady over there who called us and gave us some information," said Johnson.

Johnson tells us they're also looking at sine newly obtained DNA and autopsy records.

"I requested the X-rays and things - we've got that in. I got that from the Oklahoma Medical Examiner's office and we've also got a better reading of the autopsy," said Johnson.

Additionally, Johnson has worked with Harris' family to set up a $50,000 reward. So far, more than $25,000 has been donated.

Barry and Alyssa both hope the reward puts pressure on the killer or anyone involved to come forward. Anyone who knows anything is urged to reach out to the Fannin County Sheriff's Office.

"It's not about, 'Can we bring Jennifer back to life?' That's not what it's about. It's about justice, and getting justice. Our family deserves it and Alyssa deserves it," said Barry.

To donate to the reward, or to discover more about the Cold Case Docu-series Barry has started to remember Harris and gain more awareness on her murder, please click the link to the right of this story.

For those wanting to get involved, the 30th Riding4Justice event to seek justice for Harris will be taking place this Saturday at 9:30 a.m. starting in Ravenna and ending at the courthouse in Bonham.



 
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