Man gets life for wife's slaying

Saturday, November 15, 2003

CLAYTON, Mo. -- With the help of sign language and special courtroom modifications, a man unable to hear or speak was sentenced to life behind bars on reduced charges in the alleged love-triangle stabbing death of his deaf wife.

As part of a deal with St. Louis County prosecutors, Scott Harper, 39, pleaded guilty Thursday to second-degree murder and armed criminal action and was sentenced to consecutive life sentences.

Harper killed Karvita Barnett-Harper, 42, on Aug. 5, 2002, because he was having an affair with a male boarder, who also was deaf.

Steve O'Brien, the prosecutor, said Harper and his wife had argued about the boarder living downstairs.

Harper got a kitchen knife and repeatedly stabbed his wife until the knife broke off, and then he got a second one, O'Brien said. Again the knife blade broke, and the defendant finished the killing with a pair of scissors, O'Brien said.

Harper then used his wife's ATM card to get money and take his lover to a motel, O'Brien said.

For Thursday's hourlong hearing, the courtroom had been electronically rigged so that Harper and members of the deaf community could see the judge's questions, Harper's replies and impact statements by the victim's relatives.

Spectators in the first eight rows could easily follow the proceedings on a large video screen, and two terminals were placed in front of Harper for his use.

During the hearing, each question by the judge was typed into a computer by the court reporter, and the interpreter would ask the question in sign language. After Harper replied in sign language, the signer gave the judge the answer, and it was typed in for instant transmission to the terminals.

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