Author Topic: Jean Harris, killer of Scarsdale diet doc Herman Tarnower, dies at 89  (Read 478 times)

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Offline mountaineer

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Jean Harris, killer of Scarsdale Diet doctor Herman Tarnower, dies at 89
Last Updated: 10:22 AM, December 29, 2012

She was the ultimate woman scorned — and her murder of the “Scarsdale Diet” author captivated the nation.

Former girls-school headmistress Jean Harris drew both ire and sympathy for gunning down her two-timing lover as revenge for his affair with a much younger office assistant. She served 12 years in prison for the 1980 slaying and later became a motivational figure who raised millions for the children of female inmates.

On Sunday, Harris died at her assisted-living home in Connecticut at the age of 89, her son, Jim, told The Post.

Harris never admitted she intentionally shot her cardiologist boyfriend Dr. Herman Tarnower, founder of “The Complete Scarsdale Medical Diet.”

Though she shot him four times, Harris always claimed she just wanted to confront him over the affair and kill herself in his presence at his estate in Purchase.  She would later say she was “certainly guilty of something. I caused the man’s death.”

Harris’ case became a cause célèbre for feminists, who saw her as a victim of a sexist culture that discarded women as they aged.

“In Westchester, I always felt I was a woman in a pretty dress that went to dinner parties with Dr. Tarnower,” she testified. “In Washington, I was a woman in a pretty dress and a headmistress. I wasn’t sure who I was, and it didn’t seem to matter.”

Harris grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio, where she attended school and later married industrialist James Harris, with whom she had two sons. They divorced in 1966. A few months later, the 43-year-old met Tarnower at a Park Avenue party, and they began a 14-year relationship. She moved to New York and worked in sales administration but relocated in 1977 to McLean, Va., to become headmistress of the Madeira School for Girls.

Harris rode the train to Tarnower’s home every weekend and spent holidays with him.  But he was never faithful, and Harris in 1980 was driven mad by his affections for his 37-year-old office assistant, Lynne Tryforos.

“You keep me in control by threatening me with banishment — an easy threat which you know I couldn’t live with — and so I stay home alone while you make love to someone who has almost totally destroyed me,” she wrote in a famous 11-page “Scarsdale letter” used as key evidence against her during the 62-day trial.

Harris wrote that he had betrayed her and that she was considering plastic surgery to win him back from Tryforos, whom she blasted as “a vicious, adulterous psychotic.”

Harris sent the letter to Tarnower less than 24 hours before the murder — and he was dead before he could ever read it.

Her defense maintained that jealousy was not a factor, and she refused to plead guilty to a lesser charge. Jurors didn’t buy her story and found her arrogant and jealous.  Harris later said she wouldn’t even have taken the stand had her lawyer told her to “keep quiet.”

The jury convicted her after eight days of deliberation — and she was sentenced to 15 years to life.

The sensational case inspired two TV movies, “The People vs. Jean Harris,” which aired soon after her 1981 conviction, and HBO’s 2006 movie “Mrs. Harris.”

She wrote a book in prison in 1986 called “A Stranger in Two Worlds” and used the profits to set up a charity to fund education for incarcerated women.

Harris also suffered two heart attacks and underwent bypass surgery behind bars. Then-Gov. Mario Cuomo granted her clemency 20 years ago this week.

“I only got clemency because I had some publicity and the governor thought I was going to die on the operating table,” she told The Post in 1997 from the Monroe, NH, cabin where she lived after her release.

She continued to run the charity but closed it down a couple of years ago.

“Let each citizen remember at the moment he is offering his vote that he is not making a present or a compliment to please an individual – or at least that he ought not so to do; but rather he is executing one of the most solemn trusts in human society for which he is accountable to God and his country.” Samuel Adams, April 16, 1781.

Offline PzLdr

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Re: Jean Harris, killer of Scarsdale diet doc Herman Tarnower, dies at 89
« Reply #1 on: December 31, 2012, 08:53:54 AM »
When I was an ADA we had a joke: What's the Tarnower diet? 4 ounces of lead. She had a pretty easy time in the joint. Lived in 'the cottage', taught her fellow inmates. But hey, she was a feminist icon, and a society babe. Why treat her like the murderess she was? [She got the minimum on the murder].  :shrug:
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Offline andy58-in-nh

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Re: Jean Harris, killer of Scarsdale diet doc Herman Tarnower, dies at 89
« Reply #2 on: December 31, 2012, 09:32:55 AM »
My dad was a patient of Dr. Tarnower's for a time. He described him as superficially charming but arrogant. I also recall that he strongly suspected the doctor of having an affair with his assistant, based upon their office manner with each other, which my dad found a bit too (a-hem) "familiar". And he was angry when Ms. Harris took matters into her hands, if only because Tarnower was actually having some success in getting my old man to lose some weight.
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