A half-sister and aunt promised to help, but in 1997, Goodridge took Harris back with him to Liberia, where he was living with two women—Harris later described them as distant cousins—with whom he often had sex. On New Year’s Eve 1997, her sister Lovette was asleep when her father attempted a sexual attack on Harris for the last time. She fell asleep, only to awake in the middle of the night as he was performing oral sex on her. “But before I fully woke up,” she later recalled, “I had experienced some sort of pleasure. I didn’t know what was going on. And then I realized it was him.” For the first time, she physically fought him off. She was crying, and eventually he gave up.
She was 17 when she finally was able to get out and stay with her mother, also in Liberia. Goodridge let her leave, tossing her passport at her dejectedly and letting her know he disapproved of her abandoning her friends, including Lovette. She stayed with her mother until her 18th birthday, when she could qualify for a repatriation loan. She told Lovette she would be back for her, then headed back to America. “I told her I was going to get her out of there,” Harris says. A decade later, the fact that she wasn’t able to keep that promise still weighs on her.
Harris tried to build a new life for herself in fits and starts. She stayed with family between stints at women’s shelters. She finished high school and went to college for a year, then got work as a $17-an-hour security guard in a freight section of Kennedy Airport. She made some friends on MySpace and started dressing goth, with spiked collars and multicolored hair extensions. Her father made a brief appearance in 2002; he came toward the door as Harris was looking after her niece and nephew in Staten Island. Harris called Carleen in a panic and later locked herself in a bedroom. They wouldn’t see each other again for five years.
Slowly, the front she’d created started coming apart. She moved to an apartment in Rockaway Park in 2006—2 blocks from the beach!!! she wrote on MySpace. sweet beach parties, makin smores, bonfires, gettin drunk and watchin the sun rise. it dont get no better than that. But she found she couldn’t have a relationship, and she never was able to go out with friends without getting drunk. She tried to talk about the abuse with her family. “The Goodridge family is a different culture,” she says. “In Africa, everything’s ‘Skeletons have to stay in the closet, don’t put your business out there.’ They know what he did. They just for some reason decided to protect him.”
In April 2007, she swallowed some pills at work. When an ambulance arrived, she went home, refusing to talk about why she did it. A few weeks later, she learned from a family friend that her father was coming back to America and staying in her sister’s house—with her sister’s daughter.
Harris went to Staten Island that day half-hoping Carleen had thrown him out. Like Brigitte, Carleen had been raped and abused by their father, but she had been spared the trips to Liberia as a teenager. While Brigitte led an abstinent shell of a life, Carleen had had three children with three different men. “She deals with her past one way, and I deal with it another,” Harris says. She couldn’t understand how Carleen could take him in.
Now, watching her father with Edina, she had to do something. She searched the web for solutions. “The first thing I did was find out if I can go to the police. The statute of limitations says they couldn’t do much about it. He hadn’t touched me since I was 17, 18 in Africa, which wasn’t here. I couldn’t go to him and say I think he’s going to molest my niece. There’s no record. My family’s not backing me up. So I’m thinking, Stop him any way you can.”
The first thing she learned was that it could be done. “Everyone always focuses on Lorena Bobbitt because it’s the most popular. But each and every case I researched, no one died.” She read about cases in China and in Europe. “And I start seeing how to do it without actually killing him.” On June 26, she bought a package of 50 scalpels on eBay for $6.83, including shipping.
On July 25, Harris had her final argument with Carleen. On her home video, titled “My Reasons,” she mentions Carleen’s children explicitly. “We both know what he wants to do with them.” She talks about what she’s about to do. “Somebody’s got to do something,” she says on the video. “Just know I’m doing this because I know he’s not going to change … I’m really sorry, guys. This is something that just has to be done.”