Melissa Harper

My good friend Melissa passed away yesterday.

I have known Melissa since the day I first came to work for the District Attorney's Office.

I've gone to trial against her. I've drank beer and wine with her. There may have even been a cigarette or two smoked with her, too, on occasion (but don't tell anybody).

She was that world-weary, sarcastic, and talented Defense Attorney who had a heart of gold. She could argue her case with a prosecutor in a way that made you feel like if you didn't agree with her position that you might just have lost your moral compass. She was smart, but not in the way that she ever tried to make you feel stupid.

And she sure as hell wasn't scared to go to trial. The second felony case I ever tried was against her. I won't tell you the details of it, but it was one of those serious cases that had a lot of those bizarre funny moments in it. (Let's just say that sometimes when you put a mannequin in front of a jury without a properly "wood-shedded" lay witness that crazy things can happen.)

We were still laughing and talking about that case as late as last week.

When I talk about how our little community of lawyers are a family, I can't think of a better example of that than Melissa Harper. We could fight like cats and dogs and argue like we couldn't stand each other in court, on occasion. And then chat with each other like life-long friends hours later.

To me, she was like a cool older sister. She gave me advice on everything, especially fashion tips (which I desperately needed). She was a friend to me and she was a friend to my family.

God, this hurts so bad.

My thoughts and prayers go out to every friend and family member of Melissa's -- whether biological, courthouse, or otherwise.

KJ, you are especially in our hearts and prayers. Please let the family at the CJC that loves you be there for you as much as you can tolerate us.

To Melissa, your absence in the hallways of the Criminal Justice Center will create a deafening silence.

We will miss you more than words can ever express.


Ron in Houston said…
It's human nature to often disagree. Add to that the adversarial nature of our business and it can be easy to get cross with others.

However, we need to see that we have a lot in common and let go of the ego involvement that gets intensified in those disagreements.

We're all family to each other. Whether it's the family down at the CJC, the legal family, or even the human family. Sure as Mark says we have our dysfunctions. However, that doesn't change the fact that we're family.
Wandas.Research said…
I really hate to hear that this is true. I thought that it was a mixup when I heard it yesterday so I started calling her cell phone hoping she would answer. I only knew Melissa for a few years and in that time she helped me a lot. She allowed me to work as her assistant to strenghten my skills as a paralegal. She did this just to help me out and I really enjoyed work for the first time. She was a great litigator to me and she will be missed. My prayers go out to her family and friends. Wanda-Texas City
Anonymous said…
I hope she didn't suffer. She was very cool. How did this tragedy occur? God rest your soul, Melissa.

I have not seen Melissa in years. The last time we spoke, she was heading to buy a big boat and was very excited about that. She was so excited that she would make you excited.

An excellent lawyer who got justice for her clients by being a great person.

Sorry for your loss, AHCL. I'm really not Pat.

Anonymous said…
I'm not sure you understand the relationship between defense attorneys and prosecutors unless you live it. While we represent different sides, we are all still people and its easy to find good people and make friends with them. While I didn't know Melissa for long, when I heard of her death, it brought tears to my eyes. She is a beautiful person, and could bring a smile to anyone's face. I cried for her, and for the rough road that KJ now has ahead. I only hope that I can offer some help to KJ as KJ learns to continue on. I am praying for KJ and the family from both sides at the CJC. God Bless you Melissa, you will be missed.
Yes, we do fight a lot. But, like all crazy families, in the end, we do support and love each other.

Peace and blessings to Melissa's family and friends.
Anonymous said…
I will miss Melissa, she was a very good friend. My heart is broken over the whole situation. We are definately there for KJ.
Kese said…
She sounds like a class act.
Anonymous said…
There are no words to describe the loss of Melissa Harper or the pain that KJ is enduring. You literally couldn't meet two more beautiful souled people. So welcoming, positive and uplifting. The most radiant smiles... I don't know how you ask someone to turn to your higher power at a time like this, but I pray that somehow, God's mercy and grace is evident to KJ and Melissa's friends and family. As impossible as it seems... I can't imagine navigating this tragedy... KJ, my thoughts and love are yours.
Anonymous said…
I am so sorry K. I know your heart is broken but hang in there. You are loved by everyone who knows you. And we support you and are there for you! Let us cry with you and be there for you as you have always been there for us. Don't shut us out at this terrible time for you. We want to be there for you! Your CJC family
Jaded said…
This is just awful. My thoughts and prayers are with KJ. We all love you. And we will all miss Melissa deeply.
Anonymous said…
Melissa and I kept running into each other at the court house when we were both just getting started in the 90's. Wasn't long b/4 my husband, Steve, and I found ourselves w/an office partner and friend. We learned how to be lawyers together, and wow, she was so much better at it than I ever could have been! She taught me that it was okay to get in the DA's face, I taught her that not all DA's are the enemy. We nursed her thru a heartbreak and helped her move to a new place. Poor thing suffered thru a family vacation w/us at the beach along w/our 4 boys. She showed my boys how to ride a jet ski. We drank and smoked cigarettes and laughed untill our sides hurt. We all will miss her loving, kind, highly organized, totally competent and funny self. I'm so sorry she is gone. Pat & Steve Gano-former CJC folk. love you kj
Anonymous said…
I have been reduced to tears off and on since I heard. There is now a hole in my heart. For me, for all of us, this is going to hurt for a long time. I can't even imagine how K must feel. I'm just sick for her. K, I'm so, so . . . so sorry. Please know how much we love you -- and loved her.
pro.victims said…
I tried a murder case against her a while back. When we picked the jury, I was thinking, man, the only question in this case is whether the guy gets life or not. On the second day of evidence, I was looking across the courtroom at Melissa, thinking to myself, holy crap, I'm going to absolutely lose this case. She was a hell of a good lawyer. I've tried hard cases, where the facts were tough, plenty of them. That case stands out in my mind as one, maybe the only one, where the facts were wildly in my favor, and the defense lawyer really turned the tide.

She and I laughed about that trial as recently as three weeks ago.

She's one of the people that you are a better person for having met and known. Man, she's missed. Bad.
Anonymous said…
We know how much Melissa loved all the people she was associated with, and how much she enjoyed all your friendships. Our hearts are broken, but we are happy to know that so many people cared for her and that she made some of you laugh and be happy. It is nice to hear how well thought of and respected she was.

Julian and Sandy Harper parents
Chelly Allen sister
Anonymous said…
I've know Melissa for many years. As with many of you my heart is broken. I'm still in shock. Rest in Peace Melissa Harper. KJ you are in my thoughts and prayers.
Anonymous said…
My thoughts, tears and prayers are with Melissa's friends, family and KJ during this most difficult time.
To Melissa - I'm so sorry you were in so much pain and we weren't aware... How I wish we'd known..... Rest in Peace, Melissa... you've finally found it...
Anonymous said…
KJ, Family and Friends,
I can't seem to find the words to express how sorry I am for this tragic loss. Melissa was such a wonderful person and possessed the personality one could never forget. Anyone who met her was fortunate to get to know her in their lifetime. Melissa brought out the fun times and great memories at any event you were fortunate to be at and share with her. There are so many phrases that were coined because of Melissa or by Melissa. To know her was to love her. I know that we will all catch up with her one day and share more camping and lake trips that at least won't be moderated by a Park Ranger, invaded by skunks, bombarded by rainstorms and will have an endless supply of ice!
Melissa, you are missed and loved by so many. KJ, you are in our hearts, thoughts and prayers. We will be here for you and support you. Please let us know when you are ready. You will never be alone. You have so many friends who care about you and love you.

Anonymous said…
There will be a Memorial Service and a Celebration of Life for Melissa Harper on Sunday, April 27, 2008 at The Parador, 2021 Binz, Houston, Texas 77004 at 2:00 p.m.

For those few of you that might not have known Melissa, she was a very loved and respected defense attorney here in Houston who will be deeply missed. Please keep Kelli and the rest of the family in your prayers and thoughts.

The family is asking that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to either the DePelchin Children's Center, 11925 Katy Freeway, Houston, Texas or Citizens for the Protection of Animals (CAP), 11925 Katy Freeway, Houston, Texas.
Anonymous said…
I have always admired Melissa as a lawyer. Although we never really had a chance to become friends, I have always viewed Melissa as a powerful female attorney, strong woman and a powerful role model when I was starting to navigate my way around the courthouse many years ago. I am truly devastated by this loss. I can't stop thinking about it. I keep thinking about Kelli who is the last person you would want to have suffer. Kelli is so sweet and caring and I remember when I didn't have a clue how to be a criminal defense attorney and she was so kind to me, even gave me good recs that I really didn't know how to get on my own. I have never forgotten her kindness to me when I first started. I feel for the family and close friends that are mourning the premature loss of an amazing person. I have been so depressed about this and everyone I have spoken to at the CJC have just been in total shock. We all are in shock. Her passing will stay with me for a long time. Kelli I know the outpouring of love and support seems overwhelming right now but I hope it can bring you a little comfort in such a dark time. You are such a wonderful person and you do not deserve this, but I hope you know how much this community respects and loves you both. I can only imagine that Melissa was in unbareable and unrelenting pain to feel so hopeless. She appeared so strong and vibrant, even last week when I saw her in court. I asked her how so was doing with her back. I had no idea that pain would soon completely rob her of such a vibrant life. My heart aches for you both. I pray for you both and I hope, Kelli, that your suffering is buffered by the outpouring of love and respect that everyone feels for you.
Anonymous said…
Melissa will forever hold a place in so many hearts. To her family... I know how close you are, and how much love you all share. I am so sorry for the pain and loss you are now faced with. I am so sorry this pain was brought to her, and hope now she is fishing with Conner somewhere beautiful and pain free.
Anonymous said…
Dear Friends of Melissa Harper;

We never had the pleasure of meeting Melissa personally but her M & D are very good friends of ours in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. At times like these, words are so inadeqaute and our hearts are broken for their loss! I cannot tell you how much all the outpouring of friendship and love from the "bloggers" has meant to them. Please keep all of her famliy and friends in your thoughts and prayers at this impossible time in their lives!

Sandy Steffen
Anonymous said…
I knew Melissa on a social level. So she was Missy to me...or The Misser. She was so much fun to be around with that quick sarcastic wit of hers!

One of my favorite memories of Missy is a trip in the mid-90's a group of us girls took to San Francisco for a long weekend. We had such a blast! I framed a great picture of us taken along the wharf and it's in my living room. Everyone looks so happy and carefree(and young!), it just makes me smile with the happy memories it evokes.

But I moved away from Houston some time ago and lost touch with Missy, which now will always be something I regret.

I cannot put into words how shocked and dismayed I was to hear the horrible news of her death. It has been a constant on my mind ever since. I struggle to comprehend the fact this world has lost such a wonderful person.

I'm so glad I have that picture of us sharing the good times. That's how I'll choose to remember Missy...brilliantly funny, happy and beautiful.

My heart goes out to her family and friends during this difficult time. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

May peace be with you, Missy.
Anonymous said…
I learned of Melissa's death just this morning and am deeply saddened. She was a childhood family friend and I have extremely fond memories of time spent with her family as guest in their home and aboard their boat.

The memories of swimming to shore, getting into poison oak, looking at shooting stars in the middle of the ocean, and eating fresh abalone are among the very best of my life. I will cherish those memories forever and pray that Missy, the young girl that I fondly remember, has found peace.

My prayers and love go out to Julian, Sandy, and Chelly.


Jason Bealmear
Anonymous said…
At first I thought Missy was just a great friend. Then I graduated lawschool several years ago and realized she was a great mentor.

I am horribly saddened and dismayed at all of this. We have all lost a true friend. know I love you and you have owned my thoughts since I heard of this.

Missy's parents...thank you for giving us such a great friend. She was truly a blessing too all of us.

P. Slaughter
Anonymous said…
It's the morning after a beautiful memorial service and all I can think is... standing room only.

Missy and Kelli created an atmosphere in which you wanted to be in their presence both individually and collectively.

Yesterday, I felt the pride of Missy in that place and as I looked around the room, I know so many others did as well. She never would have missed it for anyone else, so it seems only appropriate that she would be there in spirit to mourn the physical loss of a person truly larger than life.

Missy's parents, sister and brother-in-law... it was an absolute pleasure to meet you all and I pray you understand how important your acceptance of Kelli and Missy created an atmosphere for their love to flourish and touch all of our lives. May the unconditional love of your daughter serve as a beacon for all of those who have alternative families. You never know how long you'll be blessed with a family member, this is certainly an indication of how important it is to not miss the forest for the tree. You guys are great. Good luck with Reece and Avery. They have some mighty, mighty funny stories waiting for them about Aunt Missy and one hell of a guardian angel. I'm pretty sure Missy's already up there negotiating on their behalf.

To Kelli's family, Clay, your strength really set the tone for an amazing service and we can't thank you enough for being Kelli's voice. Your love for Missy is evident and we are all so glad she and Kelli were able to share their love with your family.

Debbie and Sissy... girls, nothing can change it. You were her best friends and there is so much pride and honor you should feel for having that distinction and those memories!!! You know she loved you. You know if she thought telling you how she was feeling would have CHANGED how she felt, she would have. It just didn't... so, she didn't. No more guilt. It's not fair to her or to you. There is nothing you could do about her back, but... you sure as hell affected her giant heart. Let the times you did help her where you COULD be in your thoughts right now.

Kelli, you were so gracious, poised and compassionate to everyone. It's interesting... there you stood, offering sympathy to all those who initially attended to pay respects to Missy and to support YOU. I marveled at your grace as it was you who was the strong one, offering all of US hope. Ohhhh, what an amazing woman you are. The Lord gave you such a beautiful person with whom to share such a fun, intense, charming life. I pray you're able to look around and still see the beauty in it.

Cage finally broken, free to fly.

The Eagles. They are your hope, your promise. They are your gift.

Anonymous said…
My partner and I had but one day that we were able to share with Melissa. Kelli invited us to their beautiful home to spend the day with their great friends and hang out. Kelli introduced to Melissa and there was an immediate connection. Melissa had this edge about her that while it was a little intimidating you could see how caring she was.

That day was spent eating and laughing and more laughing. After everyone had left we stayed longer, I'm not sure why but we just didn't want to leave. Melissa got out the fishing poles and we sat and fished and laughed some more. We were so excited that we found such a loving couple and were looking forward to the next time.

Kelli please know that you are in our hearts and minds always and we look forward to getting to know you even more and becoming great friends.

Travis & James
Anonymous said…
We want to extend our sincere appreciation to all the members of the Harris County Criminal Defense Bar and the Harris County District Attorney's Office who attended the memorial service for Melissa on Sunday. The outpouring of love, support, and respect were such a comfort to us. After meeting and talking with some of you, we know she enriched many lives.
Your donations for the flowers and the charity are greatly appreciated. Our special thanks go to her dear friends who gave of themselves so unselfishly to make the memorial special. The Parador was a beautiful location, and we thank Deborah Keyser and James Stafford for its use.
There is a giant hole in our hearts, and please keep us in your thoughts and prayers.

Our love to you all,
Jules and Sandy Harper
Chelly and Brad Allen
michael laman said…
I'm deeply saddened by Melissa's death. I only met her and Kelli once at La Strada in late May 2000.
Melissa was stunning, gracious, vibrant, dynamic, and a great conversationalist. I had a brief chat with her about art, and only later I discovered she was an artist in her own right. I often wonder what she might have created had she followed that path in life. Losing her cuts into the natural order of life. She was with us for such a short time, and I will always regret not taking time to meet her again. What a horrible mistake on my part! People like her don't come along very often in life. She was so appealing, charismatic, funny, bright, charming, and simply dazzling beyond words. She had it all, and when you lose someone like her--the pain is unbearable.
To Kelli--I offer you my prayers, and to the Harper family thank you for sharing her with us. She will live on with us in spirit. We have that and our memories of her to cherish. Joy she gave, and joy she has found.
Anonymous said…
well i was a client of mellissa's i met her as my lawyer. then my case ended with a new friend. this was about 7 years ago. she had the most outgoing personality i have ever seen. always talked of children as the most precious things on this earth.. she is a beautiful spirt and will always be in my heart as will her family.
Anonymous said…
I have just heard of Missy's untimely death. We were college roomates at Texas Tech. We did not keep up with each other for long after college but I have tons of pictures of the great times we had. I am so sorry for your loss. Sounds like Missy stayed the same fun loving, driven person she was in college. Missy taught me to drive a stick shift car in an ice storm. It was a blast! Please know you all are in my prayers! Page Hart Heinrich
Anonymous said…
Each day, we think of you, love you and miss you, Missy.
Anonymous said…
I am saddened and dismayed to just be learning of Missy's death. My bad for not calling my friend more often. Those darn distances of time. Missy and I spoke 4 days prior to her death (as this blog shows me)and it was that call when she told me of a back injury BUT it is only now that I can really hear the pain in her voice then. Would if I could have helped then- I can only now wish. Missy, we will so miss your smile & laughter, my friend. I know you are now watching over us. To your memory I commit to be a better friend. Peace Missy. That same Peace we all seek. Your Friend Always, Dana S
1 year ago April 18th one of the most life deserving persons, Missy slipped away from us and into the arms of ever lasting peace. Many of you had a chance to witness such a brilliant light. The light of someones exsistance here on earth. If you were one of the lucky ones to witness this light of life through Missy, I know it will live on through you as it does through me. Many of us talk about loyalty, kindness, selflessness and unconditional love, but there are few of whom truley live it. The Melissa we shared this earth with lived all of these. I am not saying she didnt have fualts, no human is without fualt. What I am saying is that if you knew her and knew her heart then you were able to witness all of these wonderful attributes of Missy. With that said she also lived life on the edge and took many of us with her kicking and screaming, but we all went becuase we knew whatever she had in store would be a memory that would never be forgotten. Missy had a way of always making me smile, bringing up when I was down and giving me total unconditional love in her own passive agressive way. I am sure you all know what I am talking about. Missy was brilliant, talented and beautiful inside and out. I cannot believe it has been 1yr. I still wait for her call. I still think about inviting her when we are planning vacations. I still hear her laugh and repeat all of her coinages. I can still sense the light of her, I just wished I could touch it. I am still so lost without her. I know we all share in our grief. I pray that someday that those of us that have been unable to accept this awful tragedy will find peace in life. I pray that we may also possess the same wonderful qualities of our friend Melissa Suzanne Harper. Missy, I will see you in peace my loving friend. Sissy
Sissy Hughes said…
To all of Mellisa's family and extended family at the HCCJC if you have any memories and or photo's you would like to share on Melissa's myspace memorial pg, please send to and I will post them. To simply view the pg go to

I know you all love and miss her as she loved you.

Sissy Hughes said…
Correction please send them to I am new at all this sorry.

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