Almost six years after stabbing to death her University of Arizona roommate, Galareka Harrison was again sentenced to life in prison.
Pima County Superior Court Judge Scott Rash sentenced Harrison for first-degree murder in the 2007 killing of Mia Janelle Henderson, 18.
After that conviction, Harrison was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
But Harrison’s attorneys argued for resentencing of their client, saying information about her had not been presented by previous attorneys during the original trial.
Monday’s sentencing alters the original ruling, providing her with the chance of parole after 25 years in prison.
The girls were roommates in a UA dormitory when Harrison, 24, stole Henderson’s checkbook, debit card, Social Security card and other items. Harrison later stabbed Henderson 23 times with a knife she bought days before the crime.
About 25 members of Henderson’s family from the Navajo Nation attended Monday’s sentencing, many of whom also gave victim-impact statements to court.
“I always raised my children to be contributing members of society, to be a blessing to others,” said Mia Henderson’s mother, Jennifer Henderson.
Jennifer Henderson told Rash it was customary in the family’s Navajo culture to get rid of all of deceased family members’ belongings once they die. She explained how she and Mia Henderson’s father burned all of their daughter’s belongings after she was murdered — everything except for a pair of infant booties their daughter wore.
“Talking about her now is something that I rarely do,” Jennifer Henderson said.
Mia Henderson’s father, Henry Henderson, said he would be able to forgive Harrison for killing his daughter if she repented for the crime.
“If only Miss Harrison would have given her a chance, I think it would have been a win-win, because she could have learned from her,” Henry Henderson said.
All of Henderson’s family members who spoke asked the judge to reaffirm the life-without-parole sentence Harrison received in 2008.
“I enjoyed getting to know your daughter through the letters and videos,” Rash told the Hendersons before handing down the sentence.
Rash himself became emotional during the sentencing hearing, pausing at one point to prevent his voice from further quavering.
“No parent should suffer the loss of a child,” Rash said.
The judge also said the sentence imposed on an offender does not reflect on the value of the life that was lost.
Rash also said the UA bears some responsibility for Henderson’s death. He noted Harrison should not have ever been admitted to the university because her grades were inadequate.
Harrison’s attorney, Alex Heveri, agreed Harrison was ill-equipped for university life.
Heveri said Harrison showed up at the UA campus without any money or the life-coping skills she needed. Harrison also moved from the Navajo Nation to attend the UA.
“When Miss Harrison stole from Miss Henderson, she was absolutely desperate at that time,” Heveri said.
Heveri described Harrison as a good person without a criminal history who was under “exceptional stressors” when she killed Henderson.