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Oakwood man testifies he stabbed girlfriend in self-defense
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Emmanuel Harris enters Hal County Superior Court Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022, for day two of his murder trial. Harris is accused of fatally stabbing his girlfriend Jordan Gooch at an Oakwood apartment. - photo by Scott Rogers

Emmanuel Harris told the jury his former girlfriend came at him with a knife and that he acted in self defense by stabbing her three times, according to testimony Thursday, Nov. 17, in his murder trial.

Harris, 32, was the final witness in the trial concerning the Sept. 14, 2021 stabbing death of his girlfriend, Jordan Gooch, 27.

Since Monday, the prosecution detailed how Harris stabbed Gooch, covered her in a blanket and left their Oakwood apartment. He crashed on Interstate 85 in Jackson County later that day and was taken to the hospital.

Gooch’s mother and sister testified Monday, Nov. 14, about finding the 27-year-old”s body the following day.

The crime scene investigator testified Tuesday, Nov. 15, that she did not see much evidence of a struggle, adding that the offender and victim typically have major wounds to their hands when the victim fights back. Harris did not have any serious injuries.

The same year Harris was discharged from the Marine Corps, he met Gooch and began an on-and-off relationship with her for about eight years.

The weekend before the stabbing, Harris said they got into an argument over an admittedly snide remark he made about cooking, cleaning and working. He said he was making a joke, but it led to an argument that escalated into breaking items around the apartment.

Harris said he retaliated in breaking a lamp after she broke a plate.

At the time, Harris was ramping up to taking more clients in his cybersecurity job and said he was stressed about the increased workload.

After another fight Monday, Sept. 13, 2021, Harris said he wanted Gooch to leave.

“I don’t really care where you go,” Harris said, adding that he wanted to focus on work. “I just need you to go.”

Gooch left the apartment, and Harris claimed she took his keys.

Assistant District Attorney Kelley Robertson referenced the 32 phone calls made after that fight in her opening statement, and Harris said on the stand Thursday that it was to get his keys back.

Gooch went to her mother’s house but returned to the Oakwood apartment Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, while Harris was on a Zoom call with a client.

After leaving his office, Harris testified about reiterating that he did not want drama while he was working and starting to pull her items out of the closet onto the bed.

When he was done removing Gooch’s stuff out of the closet, Harris said he came out of the bedroom and saw Gooch holding a kitchen knife in her right hand.

“What, if anything, did you notice about her demeanor?” van Rossem asked.

“She just had this glare in her eye, like I don’t know,” Harris said. “I’ve seen Jordan give me some evil eyes before, but nothing like that.”

Harris said he told Gooch to “get the f— out, you crazy b—-.”

“That’s when Jordan Gooch came at me with the knife,” Harris said.

Harris said he caught Gooch’s hand and staggered back to avoid being sliced. 

“The knife was still in her hand, and I manipulated it, and the knife was driven into her shoulder by me,” Harris said.

When asked why he didn’t call 911, Harris said Gooch was “dead very quickly” and that he panicked because the “optics” didn’t look good. The Oakwood man was on probation after taking a plea deal in 2018 for aggravated battery involving a different woman.

Harris popped some Klonopins, a benzodiazepine drug, which he cited for why his memory is hazy in certain points and for some of his decision-making.

“Why do you leave the apartment?” van Rossem asked.

“I don’t have a good answer for that to be honest with you. I was, for lack of better words, extremely high and messed up on benzos. I don’t know,” Harris said.

Van Rossem asked why he didn’t simply take the knife away from Gooch, to which Harris said it happened quickly and that he reacted to survive.

On cross-examination, Robertson focused a good deal of her early questions on Harris’ Marine training and how his actions ran counter to it.

One example was removing the knife, which is not advisable in administering first aid.

“So you didn’t pull the knife out to make her bleed faster? That was just a mistake?” Robertson asked.

The prosecutor also brought up his martial arts training while in the Marines that involved edged weapons and subduing enemy combatants.

“After you had stabbed her in the heart, why did you stab her two more times in the back?” Robertson asked.

“I did stab her, and then it just was a reaction to the whole situation,” Harris said. “I was scared and I just reacted and I stabbed her multiple times. It was just a reaction, a survival instinct, whatever you want to call it.”

Robertson inquired about the calls Harris made to his family and friends after the stabbing, many of which Harris testified he didn’t fully recall what was said.

Harris also said he didn’t know where his cellphone was. Having Harris’ cellphone would reveal what he said to Gooch in the days and hours before the stabbing, and Robertson said Gooch’s phone did not have calls or texts from Harris.

Harris was the only witness for the defense, and the prosecution did not call any witnesses in rebuttal.

The jury was excused around 2 p.m. Thursday after the close of evidence.

They were instructed to return at 8:30 a.m. Friday, Nov. 17.