UA murder suspect stabbed Navajo roommate, document says

By Arthur H. Rotstein
Tucson, Arizona (AP) 9-07

A University of Arizona coed apparently became a murder victim because she had accused her roommate of theft, a court document suggests.

According to court papers filed Sept. 6th, the roommate bought a knife, returned to their dorm room and stabbed her fellow freshman Sept. 5th while she slept.

Galareka Harrison, 18, remains in custody in lieu of a $50,000 bond on a charge of first-degree murder in the death of Mia Henderson, 18, after a brief initial appearance before a Tucson City Court judge at the Pima County Jail. Judge Michael Pollard entered a not guilty plea on her behalf and set her next court appearance for Sept. 17.

According to a probable cause statement filed Thursday in Pima County Justice Court, Harrison bought the weapon on returning to campus, then wrote a fake note, pretending to be Henderson. The note purportedly admitted falsely accusing her roommate and “mentioned ending her own life,” university police officer Mario Leon said in the sworn statement.

Leon said Harrison entered the room, left the note on her roommate’s desk and then stabbed her “numerous times.” Henderson was pronounced dead Sept. 5th at University Medical Center, while Harrison was treated for unspecified injuries, then released and immediately taken into custody for questioning. She was arrested that night.

Not until Sept. 6th did university police acknowledge that officers responding to a call at a residence hall complex found the two women with apparent stab wounds.

Police have not said what Harrison was accused of stealing and have not released the police report her roommate filed Aug. 28.

But a Northern Arizona University student who called herself a close friend of Henderson’s said Henderson had complained earlier this week that her roommate had been going through her purse and taking things.

“So Mia was really ticked off,” said the student, Lee Ann Dejolie.

Both women lived in communities on the Navajo Nation, and both were enrolled in the university’s Native American scholars program intended to help American Indians adapt to college life. Classes began less than three weeks ago.

Henderson, of Tuba City, was away from home for the first time, though she had attended a summer science program at the university, impressing her mentor, a medical college professor. She held a prestigious tribal scholarship and planned to major in biology.

Instead, a funeral Mass is planned for 11 a.m. Sept. 10th in Gallup, N.M., at Sacred Heart Cathedral. Henderson will be buried in Sanostee, about 70 miles northeast of Gallup, said Tuba City district spokeswoman Rosana Suetopka-Thayer.

Harrison is from Chinle, about 100 miles east near New Mexico, and wanted to become a pharmacist, her mother said after the initial appearance.

A teary-eyed Janice Harrison said she was in shock after watching her daughter’s brief televised appearance.

“She never did anything wrong,” she said, speaking in a low voice. “She’s a real nice person. She’s never been away from home. She has no record of anything like this.”

She added that her daughter also had been injured and said, “I think she was protecting herself. ... It looks like she was trying to defend herself. She’s not the kind of person who could just attack someone without reason.”

She said she had not been able to talk to her daughter, and left after the hearing with a son and another daughter on a seven-hour drive home. Janice Harrison, who said she had to tend to her younger children, planned to return within the next few days.

Pollard rejected a prosecutor’s request to set bond for Harrison at $1 million.

Deputy Public Defender Howard Wine told the judge that even a bond of $50,000 “would essentially bankrupt the entire extended family.”

Harrison is heavily involved in rodeo and devoted to her three quarter horses, including her favorite, Cooper, her mother said.

She said her daughter “never had any record – nothing. Nothing at all,” and called her “a good girl, a nice girl.”

She said her daughter had been home last weekend for a Navajo rodeo event, and that she had not discussed her roommate or spoken of any problems at school.

Associated Press Writer Felicia Fonseca in Albuquerque, N.M., contributed to this report.