Jean S. Harris, convicted in the 1980 murder of Dr. Herman Tarnower, dies at 89-years-old.
Confirmed by her son, Harris passed away on December 23 at a Connecticut assisted living facility. Given a life sentence for her role in the Scarsdale Diet doctor’s death, she received clemency in December of 1992.
The murder case was the subject of sensationalized headlines across the nation for nearly two years, according to NewsDay New York. Dr. Herman Tarnower, a millionaire cardiologist, was well known for authoring The Complete Scarsdale Medical Diet.
The doctor was allegedly part of a bizarre love triangle involving Jean Harris and Lynne Tryforos, his young office assistant. Harris supporters believe that after their 14-year-long affair, the Scarsdale Diet doctor was pushing Harris away in favor of his younger lover.
Police arrested Jean Harris on March 10, 1980 for the shooting death of Tarnower, although she continued to maintain her innocence. Harris claimed that the killing was accidental, occurring as she attempted suicide with the gun after confronting Tarnower about his affair with Tryforos.
She was subsequently found guilty of second-degree murder and received a 15 years to life sentence on March 20, 1981. According to The Associated Press, Harris survived two heart attacks while serving time in prison. Undergoing heart bypass surgery in December of 1992, she received clemency moments before from Governor Mario Cuomo.
When she was released on parole shortly thereafter, Harris had served just under 12 years of her sentence.
The New York Times writes that while in prison Harris used her skills as a former school headmistress to advise female inmates regarding childcare. She developed a center to house infants born to prison mothers that allowed them to spend a year close to each other.
In 1993 Harris created the Bedford Hills Children’s Foundation which has raised scholarship funds for children of woman imprisoned in New York State.
Jean S. Harris dies leaving behind two sons, two grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.