TUCSON, Ariz. - After being convicted of first-degree murder in the 2007 stabbing death of Mia Henderson, her former University of Arizona (UA) dorm mate Galareka Harrison was sentenced today to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The death penalty was not sought.
Harrison, 19, of Chinle, was initially convicted Sept. 19 for the violent death of Henderson, 18, of Tuba City. Both freshman students were Navajo.
Superior Court Judge Nanette Warner heard several hours of testimony from both families.
Warner said that she had been impressed by the demeanor of the two families and later commented that it gave her "a much deeper sense of respect" for Navajo communities, lives and culture.
John O'Brien, Harrison's attorney, called the killing "a crime of passion" and stated that Harrison was "truly, truly sorry for the pain that she has caused."
Harrison herself later made a statement, saying simply, "I just want everybody to know that we all suffered from this."
Prosecutor Rick Unklesbay said this case was unique in terms of the impact that Henderson's death had on not just the families, but also on the entire Navajo Nation and the UA community.
At the sentencing, O'Brien had asked Warner to impose a life sentence with eligibility for parole after 25 years, but Warner rejected that option.
Harrison also was found guilty on three counts of forgery and one count of identity theft. Warner sentenced Harrison to 2 1/2 years for each of those counts, to be served concurrently with the life sentence. She was credited with already having served 447 days in jail.
More detailed information will be published in the next issue of the Observer.