A Round Rock man has been indicted for the 2009 murder of Jessika Lynn Kalaher. Kalaher was found dead inside her car in a shopping center in Cedar Park. According to the District Attorney, it was a new development in science that led her to seek a capital murder charge.
The suspect is actually in prison right now serving time for credit card abuse and tampering with evidence in the case. He was convicted of those charges in 2010.
District Attorney Jana Duty says 33-year-old Crispin James Harmel strangled Jessika Kalaher to death.
Kalaher's body was found in her car in a parking lot across from the Wal-Mart in Cedar Park in September of 2009.
Duty says Harmel abducted Kalaher from the Wal-Mart parking lot, took her to an ATM where he forced her to withdraw cash, then took her to a park, sexually assaulted her and strangled her. Duty says believing Kalaher was dead, Harmel returned her car to the shopping center with her body in the backseat.
Surveillance footage of Harmel walking in and out of the Wal-Mart, as well as his truck driving through the parking lot was released at the time.
The medical examiner ruled strangulation and homicide as Kalaher's cause of death, but what happened in the hours leading up the finding of her body proved puzzling for prosecutors.
People saw Kalaher moving about in her car for four to five hours prior. One witness saw her get out of the car.
Duty says it's a phenomenon called delayed death to strangulation. She contacted a professor at the University of Indiana, who is an expert in the field, for help. He said that victims will pass out and then go on to live, some even for days before eventually dying.
"At the time it was not a well-known phenomenon. It was not a well understood medical condition that someone can be strangled with a ligature and survive for a time period and then succumb to their injuries. This was kind of a new area of science," Duty said.
Duty says delayed death is pretty horrific. Your tongue and throat swells and you eventually suffocate. Others die of stroke. The research has led to medical staff to keep strangulation victims at the hospital for observation for longer periods of time.