PLACERVILLE (CBS13) – The El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office confirmed on Tuesday that the victim in a fatal Sunday night shooting in Placerville was the 72-year-old husband of suspect Collen Harris.
Robert Harris was found dead in his bed when deputies responded to the home on Wilderness Court that the couple shared and Harris, 70, was arrested at the home — again.
CBS13 learned on Monday that Harris, then Colleen Batten, was suspected of shooting her second husband, James Batten, at the same home in 1985. A jury acquitted her in 1986, citing insufficient evidence that she intended to murder her husband. According to a Mountain Democrat article, she couldn’t remember killing Batten and a psychiatrist testified at her trial that she suffered from limited amnesia.
She reportedly told police that Batten had been sexually assaulting his teen daughter from her first marriage but declined to press charges after Batten was arrested.
Tuesday, CBS13 spoke with a neighbor and friend of more than 25 years who said the El Dorado County Jail is the last place he’d expect Harris to end up.
“Very friendly. She’s a small woman, soft-spoken. If you met and her and talked to her, you’d be amazed,” Dan McKelvie said.
That’s a very different picture of Harris than that of a cold-blooded killer.
“It just amazes me what’s going on,” he said.
The circumstances of the two deaths are eerily similar, including the weapon Harris allegedly used, a shotgun.
“It’s a small town. The news is out there and people talk.”
McKelvie has known Colleen Harris since he moved into the neighborhood in 1985. He knew about what happened then, but since she was acquitted, he thought she was innocent.
“I don’ want to rush to judgment,” he said. “I know that’s what everybody’s going to start doing until the facts come out.”
McKalvie also said he didn’t notice any recent problems with Colleen and didn’t know of any marital problems. CBS13 uncovered that Colleen and Robert Harris divorced in 2004 but had reconciled. The sheriff’s office is referring to them as a married couple.
McKelvie said he’ll be attending the trial, trying to make sense of an almost three-decade-long mystery that he still can’t believe is true.
“My wife, first thing she says is it feels like a family member,” he said. “I feel like crying for her what she’s going through. I feel terrible for her.”