January 08, 2012

Culver

The following article was written by Bill Hetherman of City News Service.

imagewebsiteA member of the California Army National Guard testified Friday that he grew frustrated with both his commanders and Culver City police when he tried to warn them about the bizarre behavior of a colleague who said he wanted to cause a recruit to lose her baby and ended up killing her.

Taking the stand in a wrongful death suit filed against the state by the family of murdered National Guard member Joann Crystal Harris, Sgt. Erik Hein said that instead of being praised for his efforts to have Sgt. Scott Ansman's actions investigated before Ansman killed Harris, he has felt a backlash within the National Guard.

Ansman beat 29-year-old Harris to death with a baseball bat on Aug. 24, 2007 on the gymnasium floor of the Culver City armory. Ansman - a married father of three - mistakenly believed Harris was pregnant with his baby.

"I've lost faith in the command and the system from that point on and I just felt my career took a nosedive after that,'' Hein testified in Los Angeles Superior Court.

Attorney Mark Geragos - representing three siblings of Harris - said Ansman easily lured Harris to the armory because Guard members never told her that Ansman had been outspoken about wanting to get rid of her baby.

Gerald Bennett, Suzette Bennett and Deborah Bennett became the plaintiffs when their mother, Martha Harris, died in August, 2011. Harris sued the state in October 2008.

The Bennetts maintain their sister's death could have been avoided if officials there investigated Hein's allegations that Ansman was plotting against Harris and her unborn child.

Harris found out she was pregnant while undergoing a medical examination as part of her Army recruitment, according to the lawsuit. Harris later told her recruiter that Ansman was the father, although that turned out to be incorrect, Geragos said.

Before killing Harris with the baseball bat, Ansman used Internet information to unsuccessfully try and induce an abortion by putting Visine eye drops into her tea, Hein said. The sergeant said he called one of his commanders after he found a large bottle of Visine in an armory trashcan.

"I had to let him know how serious it was,'' Hein told the court. The superior repeatedly said he would counsel Ansman, but kept delaying and did not show up as expected the day of the murder, Hein said.

Ansman also had asked Hein if he knew anyone who could harm Harris enough to cause her to lose her baby, Hein testified. Hein said a Culver City Police detective asked him to wear a hidden recording device so a case could be built against Ansman for solicitation of murder. Hein said he took time to think about it, but declined because Ansman's behavior grew increasingly bizarre, sneaking up behind his fellow sergeant and not letting him in certain areas of the armory.

"I told him I'm not going to wear it because I fear for my safety,'' Hein said.

Hein said he still believed the best alternative was to get Ansman counseling. Hein told the court he pleaded with the Culver City detective to take action to protect Harris the day before she was killed. The detective denied in his testimony that Hein made the request.

Hein is still with the National Guard and now is assigned to San Diego.

Testimony will continue on Monday, Jan. 9 in Los Angeles Superior Court.

To read other articles featuring the attorneys of Geragos & Geragos, please click here .