The son of Jean Harris announced Friday that the convicted murderer of the Scarsdale Diet doctor has died.
The story grabbed national headlines around the United States when Dr. Herman Tarnhower was shot to death in 1981 by the jealous headmistress of an exclusive girls’ school.
Dr. Tarnhower, a cardiologist, made millions after he wrote the bestselling book “The Complete Scarsdale Medical Diet”. The high protein, low fat diet became a sensation throughout the United States as Americans discovered a new way to peel off pounds.
Hundreds of reporters congregated around the courthouse during the sensational jury trial which resulted in the conviction of Ms. Harris for the killing of Dr. Tarnhower with whom she’d been having an affair. They reportedly had a 14-year relationship which ended with his death.
The motive was jealousy, according to the prosecution.
The evidence showed Dr. Tarnhower was shot four times by Ms. Harris after she discovered hair curlers and a nightgown belonging to another woman at the author’s home.
During her trial, Ms. Harris told jurors that the shooting was an attempted suicide by a jilted woman that turned into an unintentional shooting. She said she went to the doctor’s home and told hime she was going to commit suicide. Her version was that he struggled with her for the gun and it accidentally discharged four times, killing the famous doctor whose book had sold three million copies.
A graduate of the elite Smith College, she was serving as headmistress of the prestigious Madeira school for girls at the time of the murder.
For about a year she was front page news across the nation from the day of her arrest on March 10, 1980 until her sentencing for second degree murder on March 20, 1981.
Some feminists said it was an issue of a betrayed woman whose relationship with an older man was destroyed by a younger woman.
She was age 89 when she died in an assisted living facility last Sunday, according to her son’s announcement yesterday.
Her sentence was 15 years to life, and she actually spent 12 years at the Bedford Correctional Facility before then Gov. Mario Cuomo ordered her released in 1993 on parole. She suffered two heart attacks while in prison and underwent bypass surgery.
She started a scholarship program for children of the inmates of Beford Correctional Facility while she was incarcerated.
She told jurors she became so depressed with the doctor’s dalliances with numerous other women that she decided to take a gun and drive from Virginia to commit suicide in his presence in Scarsdale, New York where he resided. She claimed the gun went off accidentally when he tried to prevent her suicide during a struggle over the gun.
Jurors said they didn’t believe her testimony that she wasn’t jealous. A note was introduced into evidence in which she referred to one of her younger rivals as a “slut”.
She was 43 and the doctor was 55 when they met at a Park Avenue party end embarked on a 14-year relationship. Even though marriage was discussed, it never occurred.
Reports indicated she was angered when she discovered he’d started taking an even younger office worker to parties instead of her.
She reportedly was jealous of a younger officer worker.
Divorced from her first husband James Harris in 1965, she met the cardiologist later that same year. She was born April 27, 1923.
Several movies were made and books written about her life.
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