Harris Guilty on All Charges

By Jeremy Coumbes on May 5, 2022 at 6:21pm

A Cass County jury has convicted a Virginia man on all 8 counts connected to 2 murders that occurred in January of last year.

72-year-old Robert D. Harris of Virginia was found guilty on all 6 counts including first-degree murder, and 1 count of attempted murder. Harris was arrested in rural Morgan County after the bodies of 68-year-old Kathleen G. Wzientek and 64-year-old Brenda G. Crum were found at Wzientek’s home in Virginia on January 10th of last year.

The jury was handed the case just before noon Thursday after closing arguments and just 2 days of testimony of witnesses. During closing arguments, Cass County State’s Attorney Craig Miller said Harris drove by Kathleen Wzientek’s at least three times the morning of January 10th, one day after she broke off her relationship with Harris.

State’s Attorney Miller said at approximately 1:00 that afternoon, Harris drove to Wzientek’s home where he attempted to shoot David Miller, Kathleen Wzeintek’s son after he met Harris at the front door and told him he was not welcome there. The State says after shooting at David Miller, Harris proceeded down the hallway to Wzientek’s bedroom where he executed her and her friend Brenda Crum, shooting Wzientek three times in the back of her head, and Crum six times, twice in the side of her head.

Co-council for the defense, Mark Wykoff attacked David Miller’s testimony in his closing argument, saying no bullet was found to corroborate his statement that Harris shot at Miller’s head at close range and that Miller threw his head back resulting in a fall to the floor, which caused the bullet to graze the top of his head.

Wykoff focused on the attempted murder charge during closing arguments, only mentioning the shootings of Wzientek and Crum when he said it made no sense that Harris would step over Miller, go execute the two women, and then step back over Miller without shooting Miller to make sure the only witness was dead. Wyckoff also said the forensics completely refuted the claim Miller was shot in the head when no bullet was found.

In rebuttal, Special Prosecutor Ed Parkinson pointed to the evidence collected at the scene, from the victims’ bodies, and from Harris’ vehicle that clearly proved that Harris executed Wzientek and Crum, walked calmly back to his car, neatly put the gun away in its case under a shirt in the trunk of his car and went for a ride in the country. He said Harris didn’t stop to shoot Miller because he had simply run out of bullets.

Deliberation lasted just a little over 3 hours before the jury returned their verdict to Cass County Judge Timothy J. Wessel. Cass County State’s Attorney Craig Miller hopes the verdict gives the victims’ families some sense of closure.

Obviously there’s no winners in a murder case like this because the two individuals, Brenda Crum and Kathleen Wzientek who were murdered, their families have lost a mother, a grandmother, and a sister. But obviously, we are happy and satisfied that they can have some sort of, even if it’s a small amount, some sort of closure with the case.”

Harris’s defense attorney Mark Wyckoff says that the motions will be filed within 30 days of the verdict today. “Well of course you’re always disappointed, however, I respect our system. I spoke at great length about our system of criminal justice being the finest system that has ever graced the planet earth. And that being said, I respect the judgment of the jury.

We have thirty days as a matter of criminal procedure to file a post-trial motion setting forth anything that we believe to have been error that caused the trial to be unfair. So we’ll have a motion on file within thirty days and then that will be taken up on July 7th, and then it will be granted or denied, and then the sentencing hearing will be set for some date thereinafter.”

A status hearing on the case for any post-trial motions has been set for July 7th.

Ben Cox also contributed to this story.