Remembering Mia Henderson
Trial for Galareka Harrison held in Tucson court Sept. 11
TUBA CITY, Ariz. - It's been a year since "Princess" Mia Janelle Henderson was killed in her University of Arizona (UA) dorm room, the victim of an early morning knife attack.
The accused, Galareka Harrison of Many Farms, her roommate at the time, stood trial last week in Tucson, after a half-day delay in selecting a final jury.
Henderson, who was 18 at the time of her death, is remembered as a brilliant young academic star whose humor and physical beauty was matched by her kindness and generosity of spirit by her former softball teammates, her Tuba City High School teachers, her Catholic Church members and certainly by her Tuba City and Moencopi communities.
Roxanne Young, team business manager and mother to one of Mia's softball team members, said in a phone interview, that the most recent competition softball game played by Henderson's former teammates was a game dedicated to Henderson, and that this particular game in British Columbia also provided the much needed closure to help heal their own feelings of loss and hurt dealing with Henderson's sudden and senseless death last year.
The Indigenous Games are a Native based sports event held in various locations throughout the U.S. and Canada and include sport teams from tribes from all over the United States and Canada.
Henderson, who was planning on becoming a doctor, shined not only in academics but also had a seriously competitive sports streak and took playing softball seriously, so this game played in her honor was especially memorable.
Galareka Harrison, age 19, was indicted on one count of first degree murder, three counts of forgery and one count of identity theft.
Harrison and Henderson were both living in the Graham-Greenley Dormitory as part of the Native American First Year Scholar Program.
According to a lawsuit that Henderson's parents filed on July 15 against UA, the state and the Board of Regents, Henderson had told the UA police a week before she died that Harrison had stolen her Social Security card, her UA CatCard, which is similar to a debit card, and that she also reported that Harrison had withdrawn $500 dollars from her bank account without her permission.
Henderson also told the dean of students, dormitory housing administrator and the Native American First Year Scholars Program what Harrison had done.
The lawsuit also states that Henderson asked for Harrison to be reassigned to another dorm room, but was ignored despite the fact that Harrison had confessed to a university police officer.
The Henderson's attorneys, John Aguirre and Thomas Ryan of Phoenix, claim Harrison had not only confessed to the crimes involving Henderson, but that Harrison also admitted she'd stolen another girl's identification and forged, but not yet cashed, two other separate check's totaling $3,000.
"The University was aware that Galareka was emotionally upset, fearful that she was being prosecuted, angry that Mia had reported her crimes and blamed Mia rather than her own criminal acts as the source of her difficulties, " the lawsuit states. "Some act of retribution by Galareka was reasonably forseeable and reasonable care required simple precautions for Mia's protection."
This information regarding Harrison's interview with police became part of the court file last week and was made available as public information when requested in writing.
According to the report, Harrison initially told police she came to her dorm room early on the morning of Sept. 5, 2007 and found Henderson and an unknown man there.
Harrison said the man told Henderson to kill her.
When Henderson refused, the unknown man attacked Henderson with a knife. Harrison then said he turned the knife on her when she tried to help Henderson. Harrison managed to get away, and ran down the hall screaming for help.
Harrison further speculated that the unknown man must have got away through a window when she left for help.
Harrison also told police that it was Henderson who had been stealing from her, in secret and at gunpoint.
Harrison said that Henderson ordered her to use Henderson's CatCard to purchase items and to cash a forged check. She also said Henderson had forced her to confess these thefts to a UA police officer.
UA police detectives Mario Leon and Martin Ramirez later confronted Harrison on inconsistencies in her initial statements.
They also noted that Harrison told two emergency room workers that Henderson attacked her, but there was no physical evidence to support her claim or her story about the unknown man.
On the morning of Henderson's death, Harrison said that Henderson taunted her about possibly going to jail, then tried to attack her with a knife.
Harrison did have one significant cut to her leg and insisted that she stabbed Henderson only three times.
But the detectives noted that Henderson was stabbed at least 12 times. The formal autopsy later documented that Henderson was stabbed 14 times in the back and had 9 wounds elsewhere on her person.
Later, Harrison changed her story again.
When UA Officer Ramirez asked Harrison if Henderson was lying face down when she attacked her, Harrison said, "She was just lying there."
She then explained that Henderson woke up before she stabbed her the first time.
Harrison first said that the knife was Henderson's but when the detectives said they heard differently, Harrison admitted she bought the knife at Target the night before.
In the initial police report, detectives did find a receipt among Harrison's belongings, for the knife purchase, which was dated Sept. 4, 2007.
Harrison's trial is expected to last until the end of September, unless there are extenuating circumstances requiring a request for a change of venue.
Henderson's family had many relatives and community supporters with them during the jury selection process and opening statements in the small, crowded courtroom.
A former teacher of Henderson's said she thought it was just so tragic that this senseless incident could take the life of Henderson, who was so promising and obviously so on track for future success in representing her tribe and her community.
Henderson will be long remembered as Tuba City and Moencopi's own "Princess."