Closed case unsettled for families

Aug. 02, 2014 @ 08:56 PM

On a mid-January morning, three Vance County Sheriff’s deputies awoke Shala Harris with a loud knocking on her door.

She was expecting her son David to come home that night, but he never showed because, as the deputies informed her, David Harris had been shot and killed hours earlier during a domestic dispute with his girlfriend and her parents.

Edward Proffitt, the man who shot and killed her son, claims he was acting in self-defense and protecting his family — whom he believes were in danger of being harmed by David Harris that night.

“I am tired of always having to be the one to be the bigger person about this situation when they have taken my son's life,” Shala Harris said.

Proffitt was charged with voluntary manslaughter by the Vance County Sheriff's Office, but the grand jury did not have enough evidence to indict him on the charge.

This means the case will not proceed to a trial.

As of now, the case against Proffitt is closed.

Under North Carolina law, a person is guilty of voluntary manslaughter if he kills another human being “without malice, premeditation or deliberation.”

Harris said she wants to see justice in her son's case and is calling for the district attorney's office to send Proffitt's charges back again before the grand jury.

But District Attorney Sam Currin has said he has no plans to do that.

“We have concluded that no good would come from sending this case back to the grand jury,” he said.

Currin said his office typically does not continue seeking an indictment unless there is new evidence in the case.

But there is none here.

“I think it would be intellectually dishonest for us to do that,” he said.

 

A tumultuous relationship, tragic ending

The relationship between David Harris, 19, and Tabatha Proffitt — Edward's daughter — began in Nov. 2010.

Tabatha Proffitt, 20, said it was three years in to their relationship that David Harris started acting physically abusive toward her.

The first time he assaulted her, Tabatha Proffitt said, was in February 2013 when she was treated for an injury to her left ear, which resulted in hearing loss.

She said that first time he hit her was the day she told David Harris she was pregnant.

But, at the time, she told the doctor it was from falling against a desk.

She said she denied the abuse then because she loved her boyfriend, the soon-to-be father of her child, and believed he would change.

“I would feel sorry for him — so I didn't kick him out and have him sent to jail,” she said. “I didn't have the heart to do that.”

After that incident, Tabatha Proffitt said the violence became a regular occurrence.

Edward Proffitt and his wife, Kathy, said they had figured out what was happening when they noticed their daughter had bruises she couldn't explain.

“The sheriff's office told me that if I didn't see it happen, I couldn't press charges,” Edward Proffitt said.

But on Dec. 2, 2013, Kathy Proffitt said she witnessed the abuse first-hand.

She said she called sheriff's deputies that day when she found David Harris holding her daughter up against the living room wall by the throat.

“I begged him to let her go, but he wouldn't listen,” she said.

David Harris also took out three doors, totaling $400 in damage, that day at 179 Wendy Court, according to the incident report.

Tabatha Proffitt said David Harris' explosive anger would often surface when he didn't have access to prescription pain medication or marijuana.

She said David Harris was taking prescription pain meds the night her father shot him.

But the state Chief Medical Examiner's Office only tested for alcohol in David Harris' toxicology report. There was no alcohol in his system the night he died, according to the report.

Still, Edward Proffitt said he didn't force David Harris out of his home — even after he suspected the boy was hurting his pregnant daughter.

“I knew if I threw him out, she would follow him, and I couldn't have her living in the street or at some house with random people I didn't even know,” he said.

He said he never meant to kill David Harris that night.

“I loved that boy,” he said. “I didn't want to see him go to jail.”

When David Harris and Tabatha Proffitt were arrested Oct. 5, 2013 — less than a month before the baby was born— Edward Proffitt fronted the money to bail them both out.

David Harris was charged with illegally possessing hydrocodone and methadone — both narcotic pain relievers — and attempting to obtain the narcotic pain reliever oxycodone with a false prescription from several local pharmacies.

They were arrested together that day.

Tabatha Proffitt was arrested on a charge of possessing marijuana with intent to sell, manufacture or deliver.

She said David Harris stashed 62 grams of his marijuana in her purse when they were caught by authorities for the prescription fraud.

When David Harris was arrested that day, he also faced charges in connection with a robbery in Granville County that took place Jan. 14, 2013.

According to the warrant for his arrest, he was accused of robbing and assaulting someone at gunpoint to steal a $280 cell phone.

He was due in court for the robbery charges on the day Tabatha Proffitt gave birth to their son, David Edward Harris.

 

'A totally different person'

On Jan. 13, 2014, a call was made at 9:53 p.m. to the 911 center in Vance County.

The voice on the other end was that of 51-year-old Edward Proffitt.

“Sir, I need an ambulance at 179 Wendy Court,” he said, according to the 911 tape obtained by The Dispatch. “I just shot my daughter's boyfriend three times.”

The 911 responder asked him to clarify: “You shot your daughter's boyfriend three times?”

“Yes,” Edward Proffitt said on the recording.” Because he was assaulting my daughter and my wife.”

He said Tabatha Proffitt and David Harris had fought earlier in the day, Jan. 13, but he managed to calm them down.

The argument resumed later that night in Tabatha's bedroom, Edward Proffitt said, when David Harris threatened to leave, and Tabatha Proffitt tried to stop him.

According to Edward Proffit, David Harris said he was leaving with the baby, and Tabatha Proffitt — again — tried to prevent him from doing so.

“The next thing I know Kathy's screaming for me,” he said. “David had Tabatha's hair wrapped twice around his hand, and he was standing straight up. He had her up off the floor. I was just trying to talk to him. He said, ‘Get your hands off of me; I ain't scared of nobody. I will kill both of you.' ”

The conflict moved from the bedroom to the kitchen where David Harris started fighting with Kathy Proffitt, according to Edward Proffitt.

“That boy had been mad before, and I've heard his voices, and it's always been the same every time he got mad,” Edward said. “But that night, it was like a totally different person talking to me.”

Edward Proffitt said David Harris' face was covered in big beads of sweat, and he described his eyes as solid black.

“He was going towards my mom, and I kept trying to push him back, and then he grabbed me and threw me across the room,” Tabatha Proffitt said.

When Kathy Proffitt went over to her daughter, David Harris started towards her again, Edward Proffitt said.

At that point, Edward Proffitt said, he grabbed his wife's .45-caliber gun off the kitchen table and shot David Harris once.

“He didn't even flinch,” he said. “You couldn't even tell he got shot. He just kept coming.”

When he shot a second time, Edward Proffitt said David Harris still didn't flinch.

“If I had known I had hit that boy in the first shot, I wouldn't have shot again because I could probably stayed away long enough for the effect to kick in,” Edward Proffitt said. “I thought I missed him by the way he was acting.”

David Harris died on the floor of their kitchen that night from three gunshot wounds to the chest.

The medical examiner found a glass pipe with black residue, a green cigarette lighter, a glass vial with cologne, a key chain with multiple keys, and a cellphone in his clothes pockets — as well as a pocket knife, matchbook and several small pieces of white granular material.

“It bothers me that I took that baby's daddy away from him,” Edward Proffitt said. “But everybody who knows me and knew him said I saved that baby's life and saved Tabatha's because it would end up being them in the coffin instead of him.”

 

‘An affirmative defense’

In 1984, Edward Proffitt was convicted of felony breaking and entering and larceny.

Six weeks after Edward Proffitt was charged with voluntary manslaughter in the shooting death of David Harris, he was charged with possession of a firearm by a felon.

But when the grand jury convened to hear the case, they returned a no true bill on either voluntary manslaughter or possession of a firearm by a felon, which means they found no probable cause for the charge.

Shala Harris has met with the district attorney twice since her son was killed.

She has asked Currin to continue seeking an indictment for the possession of a firearm by a felon charge.

She said she believes Edward Proffitt should be held accountable for shooting her unarmed son.

“The bottom line, my son just wanted everybody to be civil,” she said. “He knew we couldn’t be a happy family, but he just wanted everyone to be civil for David Junior but it didn’t turn out that way.”

Currin and Assistant District Attorney Ben Hunter — who is prosecuting the case — said they do not intent to reopen the case.

“Federal courts have recognized self-defense as a valid defense to the charge of possession of a firearm by a felon, and North Carolina appellate courts have shown a willingness to follow suit in several cases in recent years,” Hunter wrote in an email. “We certainly understand that Mr. Harris' family is upset, but we are not going to send the Proffitt case back to the grand jury in an attempt to indict Mr. Proffitt on a charge for which no true bill has already been found, and for which he has an affirmative defense.”

Kathy Proffitt said the gun her husband used to shoot David Harris legally belongs to her.

She said she purchased the weapon for safety after the Proffitts' home was broken into in 2004 and then again seven years later.

She said she regularly took the weapon out of safekeeping after David Harris started living with the Proffitts at the end of August 2013 because his violent outbursts made her feel unsafe.

With the charges no longer pending, Edward Proffit and his family say they are ready to move on from this tragedy.

“I'm tired of this whole situation being brought up because it was hard enough to deal with six months ago, and it's still hard now,” Tabatha Proffitt said. “It's like they can't let him rest in peace.”

 

Contact the writer at smansur@hendersondispatch.com.