On Friday, 7 March 1980, the Dean of Students at Madeira found marijuana stems and seeds in the rooms of four of the school’s most outstanding students. Harris expelled all four teenagers and angry parents descended upon the school while the students started a demonstration in protest.
Harris received a letter from one of her favourite students condemning her for expelling the four marijuana smoking pupils. In her fragile emotional state this criticism was the final straw and she decided to kill herself.
She wrote a letter to Tarnower chronicling the many wrongs she felt he had dealt her and begged him to treat her differently. She also pointed out that Tryforos would persistently ruin her clothes and that some of her jewellery had gone missing. She confessed to making harassing phone calls to Tryforos and destroying anything her younger rival had touched that belonged to Tarnower.
On Saturday, 8 March, she wrote a will, but over the weekend she had second thoughts about the letter and decided she didn’t want Tarnower to read it. She called him on Monday 10 March and asked him to throw it away as soon as it arrived. After much pleading Tarnower eventually agreed to see her.
In Harris’s version of events she made the five-hour drive to his home planning to spend her final moments with him before putting a bullet through her head at one of her favourite places, a tiny island in the middle of a pond in his grounds.
When she arrived Tarnower ignored her and she became angry when she saw Tryforos’ negligee and slippers and a box of pink curlers in his bathroom. She flew into a rage, throwing the garments around and Tarnower slapped her hard in the mouth.
She slumped down defeated, took out the gun and pointed it at her head. A struggle between the two ensued and Harris ended up shooting Tarnower five times. Turning the gun on herself proved fruitless because it was empty.