TUCSON, Ariz. – A 19-year-old woman was convicted Friday of murdering her roommate in their University of Arizona dorm room by stabbing her 23 times.
Galareka Harrison made no expression as the jury's verdict was read in Pima County Superior Court. She was convicted of first-degree murder in the death of 18-year-old Mia Henderson, a fellow Navajo tribal member from northern Arizona. She was also found guilty of three counts of forgery and one count of identity theft.
After court recessed, she gave a wan smile, stood up and put on a black coat before being led out of the courtroom by jailers.
Prosecutor Rick Unklesbay said the case was one "of overwhelming premeditated murder." He said Harrison planned the murder for days after Henderson accused her of stealing her student ID charge card, Social Security card, checks and $500 from a bank account.
Unklesbay said Harrison was a "master manipulator" who lied repeatedly to police after the murder. Harrison finally admitted to stabbing Henderson but insisted she had acted in self-defense.
Assistant public defender John O'Brien said Harrison was a naive, scared and confused girl who found herself unwanted as Henderson's roommate and worried she would be prosecuted because the theft accusations.
Outside court, Henderson's sobbing mother and father huddled with family members.
Nearby, members of Harrison's family also cried as they talked to their daughter's attorney.
Both families left court without speaking to reporters.
Harrison faces life in prison, and could be eligible for parole after 25 years depending on the results of a hearing before her Nov. 25 sentencing. Prosecutors had decided not to seek the death penalty.
Mia Henderson, whom friends called "Princess Mia," was captain of her softball team and a star student at Tuba City High School in northwestern Arizona on the western edge of the Navajo reservation. The National Honor Society member had hoped to study genetics or sports medicine and had won a prestigious scholarship for college-bound Navajos.
Harrison grew up in Chinle, near the New Mexico border, and was a track and rodeo standout who wanted to become a pharmacist.
Both were enrolled in a university program aimed at assisting American Indian students. They did not know each other before school started.