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Trial underway for Oakwood man accused of fatally stabbing girlfriend
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Emmanuel Harris enters Hal County Superior Court Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022, for day two of his murder trial. Harris was sentenced to life in prison on Friday, Dec. 9, 2022. - photo by Scott Rogers

Emmanuel Harris walked through the blood of his girlfriend, grabbed some items and left the apartment in a car registered to his girlfriend’s mother, according to the prosecutor.

Just seconds before, prosecutors said he had stabbed Jordan Gooch three times with a large kitchen knife.

“He covers her with a blanket,” Assistant District Attorney Kelley Robertson said. “He packs up some things, including a laptop and an iPad.”

Opening statements in the murder trial for Harris, 32, began Monday, Nov. 14. He faces murder charges in the Sept. 14, 2021, fatal stabbing of his girlfriend, Jordan Gooch, 27, at an Oakwood apartment on Walden Way.

Harris, of Oakwood, was indicted in October 2021 on charges of malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault and possession of a knife in the commission of a crime.

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Kennedy Gooch testifies Monday, Nov. 14, about the death of her sister, Jordan Gooch, in Hall County Superior Court. Emmanuel Harris, 32, faces malice murder and felony murder charges from Gooch’s stabbing death in September 2021 in Oakwood. - photo by Nick Watson

His attorneys, Chris van Rossem and Jake Shapiro, have argued Harris acted in self-defense.

“He’s not trying to hide the fact that he did this,” Shapiro said. “He recognizes what he did, out of necessity for survival.”

Robertson told the jury about Jordan Gooch calling her sister, Kennedy Gooch, Sept. 13, 2021, about Harris “acting crazy,” destroying things around the apartment including a new lamp.

Jordan Gooch came to her mother’s home to get some space as Harris continued to harass her, calling her 32 times, Robertson said.

Harris also showed up at Gooch’s mother’s home and said he would do so every night until she forgave him, the prosecutor said.

“She told me that she was just tired of waking up and not knowing what type of mood he might be in,” Kennedy Gooch testified Monday.

On Sept. 14, 2021, Jordan Gooch told her sister she needed to order a cake for her friend’s birthday and run errands, so she was going to stop by the apartment she shared with Harris.

She never left the home on Walden Way.

Robertson said Gooch suffered two wounds to her back roughly three inches deep.

The other wound was in her shoulder/armpit area that went more than six inches into Jordan Gooch’s chest.

Evidenced by the bloody footprints, Harris walked through the blood, got dressed and called relatives and friends for roughly 30 minutes, Robertson said.

Robertson said the defendant left the apartment and drove away in the car registered to Jordan’s mother without calling 911 or police.

In his opening statement to the jury, Shapiro claimed that Gooch “snapped” because Harris was kicking her out of the apartment. The defense attorney described the case as one involving “two flawed humans,” in a mutually toxic, hot-and-cold relationship.

Shapiro said Gooch took Harris’ keys when she left the day before the stabbing, and Harris was calling to get his keys.

Emotions sparked when Gooch saw all of her stuff put on the bed, signaling that she was being kicked out of the apartment, Shapiro said.

After bringing up a prior incident where Gooch punched Harris in the face, Shapiro said Gooch positioned herself in the apartment so that Harris couldn’t get around her.

In Shapiro’s description of the apartment, Gooch had a knife, and a gun was on the couch behind her.

Harris, faced with a “fight or flight” scenario, chose to fight, Shapiro said.

Shapiro said the crime scene investigator would testify that there is no blood in the shower and no evidence of a clean-up job.

Harris was previously sentenced in 2018 under the First Offender Act on aggravated battery for an incident involving a different woman. Harris was given a 10-year sentence with the first two years in custody and credit for time previously served.

Shapiro said his client was in a panic because he was on probation and his mother’s gun was in the apartment.

Harris is seen on surveillance footage leaving the apartments at 4:58 p.m. A minute later, his phone goes dark.

Hours later, a 911 caller sees the car registered to Gooch’s mother driving erratically on Interstate 85 in Jackson County.

Robertson played a video from another driver showing Harris hitting a guardrail, going down an embankment and hitting a tree. He was taken to Northeast Georgia Medical Center.

Two men who rendered aid to Harris noticed a loaded gun at his feet. He was transported to a hospital. 

Authorities contact Jordan Gooch’s mother, Deneen Boyd, about the wreck.

Repeatedly calling and texting Jordan Gooch, Gooch’s family eventually got the keys from the wrecker service and went Sept. 15, 2021, to the Oakwood apartment.

Boyd, entering the apartment with her daughter Kennedy Gooch, told the jury about kneeling down to the blankets on the floor. She lifted up the blankets and found her daughter, Jordan Gooch.

“I touched her arm and I told Kennedy that she was cold and that she was gone,” Boyd said.

Kennedy Gooch broke down on the stand as the prosecution played the 911 call she made.

Outside of the presence of the jury, van Rossem moved for a mistrial.

The defense had previously filed a motion to limit or exclude the 911 call, which includes Kennedy Gooch and Boyd crying, because it “fails to shed any light on what occurred during the fatal incident.” Shapiro wrote that would cause “undue prejudice” for the jury “feeling compelled to vindicate the family of the deceased.”

Superior Court Judge Clint Bearden denied the mistrial motion, saying there is never going to be a 911 call devoid of emotion.

Anticipating the self-defense argument, Robertson pointed to the fact that Harris did not have any wounds other than a mark on his hand.

A Marine with martial arts training, Harris was bigger and stronger than his girlfriend, Robertson said.

“He leaves her body in that apartment for her mother to find her,” Robertson said. “She laid there for a day.”

The case will continue at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 15.

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Jordan Gooch is pictured with her father, Ondre Gooch. (Photo provided to The Times)