The Daring Escape of the
Larry James Harper was 37 years old when he broke out of the Connally Unit. He was serving a 50-year sentence for a string of rapes that he committed in the early 1990s. Born in Danville, Illinois, on September 10, 1963, the 5'11" 165 pound man with black hair and brown eyes always seemed mild-mannered and was always well groomed.
Harper, a former honor student, tried hard to follow in the footsteps of his father, a highly-decorated command sergeant major who served in the Army's Special Forces in Vietnam who rarely saw his family.
Despite earning an associate's degree in military science from the private Kemper Military School in Boonville, Missouri, joining the Army Reserve, going through airborne and infantry training, and informally participating in Green Beret training exercises, Harper fell short of the expectations that he had set for himself and often expressed disappointment at not being able to follow in his father's footsteps.
Harper's mother divorced his father when Harper was 10, and completely severed ties with her family. As a result, Harper and his brother ended up living with their father on military bases. Even though the boys lived with their father, he had little time to spend with them, according to Karen Gold, a psychiatrist who evaluated Harper prior to him going to prison.
"His father was quite committed to his own military career and was not all that available," Gold said. "(Larry Harper) was plagued by issues having to do with being abandoned and not having much of a sense of self-worth."
Despite his issues, Harper attended the University of Texas at El Paso in 1986 and majored in marketing. According to university records, he continued his studies until 1994. In addition to being a full-time student, he worked as a substitute teacher and held a part-time job as a bookstore clerk. At the time he committed his offenses, he held the status of an honor student. Up until that time, he had never been in trouble with the law. According to Dr. Gold, it was in the latter half of 1993 that Harper broke up with a girlfriend and began drinking heavily. At about that time a string of rapes began near the university campus. According to court records, Harper's first known rape offense occurred on September 3, 1993.
"I'm not going to let you go to waste," Harper told his female victim as he held a knife on her. He then raped her, performing two sexual acts on her in a crime of violence.
A little more than a month later, on October 5, he committed another rape. In that particular case he bound his female victim and sexually assaulted her in a number of different ways, and left a pair of scissors next to her when he was finished.
"Don't cut yourself free for a few minutes," he warned his victim as he left.
On October 31, Halloween night, as well as on the following night, he was caught in an act of voyeurism as he peeped into windows at two women, in two different apartments, at an apartment complex near the campus. When confronted by a security guard during the following night's incident, Harper was found to be carrying a screwdriver, a pair of scissors, and two rolls of electrical tape. It was generally believed later that, if not caught peeping on those two occasions, he would have raped those women, too. He escaped going to jail that time.
"He was amazed he got away with it," Gold said. "He was filled with remorsevery, very ashamed of himself. But for a few short spaces in time, he felt he was in control rather than being controlled."
Three nights later, on November 4, according to court records, he was observed peeping into yet another woman's window and was caught unscrewing a light bulb on her porch. Again, he was not prosecuted. Nearly four months later, on March 23, 1994, he returned to the woman's apartment where he had been peeping on the previous October 31 and raped her. It became the incident for which he would be arrested and that which would eventually connect him to the other rapes and crimes of voyeurism which, ultimately, would not weigh in his favor when we went to court.
"He had nothing but rejection from women," Dr. Gold said. "He's one sick puppy...not the usual jail inmate, the kind who is cocky and proud of his crimes. He is extremely depressed. It is chronic, serious depression." She also described him as "smart and disciplined."
Dr. Gold also believes he has suicidal tendencies.
Unlike many criminals, Harper did not dispute his actions and pleaded guilty to them. He apologized repeatedly to his victims, and took full responsibility for his crimes. To those present, he seemed sincerely remorseful.
Afterward, he was sentenced to 50 years in prison.