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Jurors in capital murder trial start to see grisly crime scene photos

On Wednesday inside Denton County 431st District Court, jurors in the capital murder trial for Daniel “Dan” Greco were met with images and video as prosecutors and defense attorneys interviewed and cross-examined law enforcement who investigated Anjanette Harris’ death.

The witnesses Wednesday were all members of law enforcement. They answered questions as to how they obtained the photos and other evidence. Investigators from the Denton County Sheriff’s Office, the Denton Police Department and the Little Elm Police Department were brought into court.

The jurors have been asked to determine if Greco is guilty of killing Harris and their unborn child. Greco, who pleaded not guilty to the charge this week, had previously told investigators that he accidentally killed Harris by strangling her during a sexual encounter they had in his trailer home one night in March 2016.

Daniel Greco

Medical examiners, along with other law enforcement, are expected to testify as the trial proceeds. So far, most of the witnesses have talked about the crime scene and the criminal investigation. More insight as to what was done to Harris’ body and how she died is yet to come.

Presented in court were photos of clothing, pieces of hair, a blood smear on Greco’s pickup truck, apparent drag markings down the path leading toward Harris’ body and a clump of dark hair in Greco’s backyard.

In crime scene photos from a distance, Harris’ body appears as though it could be a discarded piece of litter, tossed out in an area of Little Elm called Hilltown, where in its most abandoned pockets people have notoriously dumped trash and left old cars, even boats.

But as the frames get closer, one is confronted with a grisly sight. A naked woman, with massive trauma to her neck and chest area. It looks to investigators, who responded there in March 2016, that Harris was dragged down the trail and abandoned.

There was dirt in her right nostril, a rock in the left one. There were scrapes around her stomach, ribs, breasts and shoulder. Her left arm was contorted beneath her body, which was facing upward, her head cocked to the left. Blood from around her neck area had saturated the dirt trail around her body.

After police found Harris’ body the morning of March 6, the authorities were within hours of talking with Greco. They searched his home, allegedly finding a trash bag with used duct tape, a rubber strap and a quilt inside of it. They impounded his truck, obtained security camera footage that purportedly showed Greco’s small white truck driving to and from the area where Harris was found.

The trial resumes at 8:30 a.m. Thursday in Judge Jonathan Bailey’s 431st District Court at the Denton County Courts Building.


Jeff Woo/DRC 

The Denton Fire Department Pipes and Drums band perform during a 9/11 remembrance ceremony at Central Fire Station Wednesday in Denton. A moment of silence was taken in honor of the four crashes that occurred on 9/11, while Taps and the Denton Fire Department Pipes and Drums band, pictured, played.


News
Board of Ethics proposes improved definition for conflict of interest

While the Board of Ethics postponed some small decisions that could take a big bite out of the problems with the city’s year-old ethics ordinance, they felt good about their progress Wednesday night.

Board members spent the better part of two hours wrestling with the definition of words such as “affect” and “relative” (as in family members). Clearer definitions for “relative” that are tied to state law will go ahead to the City Council for final approval.

But the board held its powder for now on whether to include “affect” or make other changes to the conflict of interest definition.

Board alternate Deborah Cosimo proposed some changes last month to the city’s troubled conflict of interest definition based on the ethics ordinance adopted by the city of San Marcos.

Much of the proposed changes hinged on the definition of “affect.” Denton’s ordinance is specific about what constitutes a financial conflict, or a fiduciary conflict, or a gift or other financial prohibition. But it doesn’t necessarily consider whether a public official’s involvement has some other effect.

Some of the problems with the conflict definitions came to light earlier this year, when council members Deb Armintor and Paul Meltzer faced complaints for participating in a vote that placed a polling location on the UNT campus. Armintor and Meltzer’s wife are UNT employees.

The city’s ordinance, as it stands now, considered that participation a conflict of interest because of the chain of agreements between the city, the county and the university.

But even the person who filed the complaint — a member of the ethics board — said the facts of the situation created an outcome that didn’t make sense.

The Board of Ethics has been wrestling with that off and on since.

At one point Wednesday night, they asked themselves whether they thought the City Council would agree to any new definitions for conflicting interests that they put forward.

Board Chairwoman Lara Tomlin said the direction by the council wasn’t clear. “They all had different opinions,” Tomlin said.

But the board eventually agreed that it was their charge to examine the ordinance and make changes as they saw fit.Cosimo said she thought it was important, too, that the board be on the record with its recommendations.

Both she and newcomer Annetta Ramsay said it was also important that individual council members and their votes on any recommended changes be on the record, too.

Board member Rob Rayner said he wanted to be sure that if they included a definition for “affect” it didn’t come at the expense of prohibitions already in the ordinance or add to the burden of proof for someone who filed a complaint.

In particular, he was concerned that the definition not usurp another part of the ordinance, improper influence. Rayner said in his experience in evaluating ethics complaints in the real estate business often focused on the foggy conditions that occur with improper influence.

A Chicago city council member has faced such ethics complaints recently. His law firm represents labor unions, but ethics complaints allege he should not have accepted them as clients since the groups have contracts with the city and the relationships are improper influence.

Board member Charla Bradshaw agreed that a complaint filed under improper influence would have a different analysis than one for conflict of interest.

The board agreed to take up the discussion again at its regular meeting on Oct. 23, which is scheduled to be livestreamed.

In the meantime, Tomlin is expected to bring the first round of recommended changes to the council on Oct. 15.

Tomlin also announced that Karen McDaniel had resigned from the board. McDaniel gave no reason for her resignation, Tomlin said, adding that she had not been able to reach her by phone to try to persuade her to stay on.

Many of the original appointees did not serve their full term, or even a full year.

McDaniel was Meltzer’s primary appointee to the board.


Education
Will I pay more or less in property taxes to DISD?

In one of the many formalities of government, the Denton ISD school board voted on its new tax rate during Tuesday’s regular meeting.

Because of the passage of House Bill 3 — the gargantuan school finance bill signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott — the effective tax rate for homes in the district has dropped 7 cents to $1.47 per $100 property valuation.

While that tax rate previously used in the budget approved by the district months ago, Tuesday evening’s vote on the ordinance finalized it.

According to the Denton Central Appraisal District, the average taxable value for a home in DISD is $257,403 for 2019. With the new tax rate, the average homeowner would pay $3,784 in property taxes to the school district in 2019, which is roughly $180 less than they would have paid with the previous tax rate.

State legislators effectively brought down the tax rate for school districts across the state with the passage of HB 3, but an increase in funds to districts through other means will create a net increase in funding for most districts.

Much of that increase is predestined for certain areas, chiefly the mandatory raises to teachers, counselors, nurses and librarians.