Dad who spent 22 years trying to find daughter’s killer dies by suicide in front of sheriff’s office

Jennifer Harris, 28, was murdered in Fannin County in 2002 (Paramount/CBS 48 Hours)
Jennifer Harris, 28, was murdered in Fannin County in 2002 (Paramount/CBS 48 Hours)

A Texas father who spent much of his life seeking answers in the 2002 murder of his 28-year-old daughter has died by suicide outside a sheriff’s office.

Jerry Harris, a 76-year-old Marine and Vietnam veteran, killed himself in the parking lot of the Fannin County Sheriff’s Office in Bonham around 9:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, authorities told local news outlet KXII. In a letter he left behind, Harris explained that his suicide was unrelated to his daughter’s murder case, the outlet reported.

Harris had spent the previous 22 years hoping that justice would be served after his daughter, 28-year-old Jennifer Harris, was murdered.

Jennifer was last seen alive on May 12, 2002, with her green Jeep abandoned along the road. Six days later, her naked, badly decomposed body was found floating in the Red River by fishermen, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety. Her cause of death was ruled a homicide, but the case has remained unsolved ever since.

Jim Holloway, a private investigator who’s worked on the case, told KXII that he hopes the murder will get a fresh look now that the county has a new sheriff, district judge and district attorney.

“I just remember him being so sad and broken down over this that he just didn’t know who to turn to,” Holloway said of Harris. “He was just bewildered, this ate up with sadness and sorrow.”

Cody Shook, who became the new Fannin County sheriff-elect after a primary runoff election last month, said in a statement that all of the department’s cold cases will be reviewed again now that modern technology is more widely available.

“All families deserve closure regarding their loved ones, and I look forward to having access to the cases and seeing if there are any investigative options that can be applied,” Shook said.

Jennifer Harris’ case has never been forgotten in the small community and even found national recognition when CBS’ 48 Hours covered the murder back in 2018.

The program said that Sheriff Mark Johnson made a promise to continue the investigation into the murder of Harris’ oldest daughter, but the case has been stymied by the mishandling of evidence.

“I think he’s serious about trying to solve this case,” Harris said at the time.

Before Jennifer’s body was found, Harris told 48 Hours that he “was getting about three or four hours a sleep a night … spent the rest of my time … searching, driving country roads …looking for buzzards.”

“That’s what I did…until they found her,” he added.

After the program aired, Harris said he was grateful that the program could put a spotlight on her case.

"It hasn’t gotten easier over the years, but I’ve gotten to where I can deal with it a lot better,” Harris told KXII.

In 2022, Sheriff Johnson said there’s still not enough evidence to convict someone of Jennifer’s death.

“There’s not anything to directly connect someone to that murder,” Johnson said. “We all have our suspicions and beliefs to who it is, but without facts, you can’t say, ‘you’re the one.’”

Texas Crime Stoppers is offering a cash reward of up to $3,000 to any person who provides information that leads to the arrest of the person/persons responsible for the murder of Jennifer, their website states.

If you are experiencing feelings of distress, or are struggling to cope, you can speak to the Samaritans, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch. If you are based in the USA, and you or someone you know needs mental health assistance right now, call or text 988, or visit to access online chat from the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. This is a free, confidential crisis hotline that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you are in another country, you can go to to find a helpline near you.