Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Jean Harris Case

The Madeira Four

Out of her accustomed medication and beset by both boyfriend and job troubles, Jean Harris was unable to sleep that night.  The next day distraught parents confronted the exhausted head of Madeira.  Mothers and fathers who were paying $30,000 a year for a high school kid's education now saw it all going down the drain and their comments to Harris were often vituperative.  One mother angrily told the headmistress that, "If I had known you ran this school with your own Gestapo, I would never have sent my daughter here!"

The Madeira School grounds
The Madeira School grounds

That Friday also saw a students' rally in support of the Madeira Four.  "We love you, Keri!  Kelly!  Kathy!  Nina!" the girls shouted.  One of the demonstration's leaders spotted a couple of teachers and screamed, "You fucking hypocrites!"  Harris demanded that the girl who yelled that insult be brought to the house of the headmistress on campus where she furiously dressed the youngster down.  "How dare you speak that way to people who work for slave wages, breaking their backs to give you ingrates a decent education?" Harris asked rhetorically.

The young lady was apparently quite upset by Harris's impassioned lecture.  As she left the room, the Academic Dean who accompanied her whispered, "It's the word hypocrite she can't stand.  If you'd called them 'fucking assholes,' she wouldn't have minded so much." 

Indeed, Jean Harris' mental state was fast unraveling.  She was insomniac, panicked, depressed, and confused.  As she was to testify later, "I remember very distinctly Saturday morning going in and out of my bedroom several times.  I wanted to clean it up, but I didn't know how.  I couldn't decide where anything goes.  I didn't know which pile of paper went where.  Just hanging up a dress seemed to involve more decisions than I could cope with."


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