Jean S. Harris, the woman convicted of killing her famous lover, Herman Tarnower, has died, at the age of 89, Washington Post reports today. Harris (born Jean Witte Struven in 1923) killed Tarnower with four gunshot wounds – one of which was in the back - on March 10, 1980. She claimed, during her trial, that she had intended to kill herself, in his presence, but that the gun had been facing the wrong way.
Herman Tarnower was a millionaire cardiologist, who made his name as the creator of the Scarsdale Diet. Harris was the headmistress of the exclusive Madeira School for girls, in McLean. Harris became embittered when Tarnower, who had proposed to her and given her an engagement ring, yet never married her, would go out to dinner parties with other women, whilst she stayed at home and worked on the manuscript for the book that made him famous. “I was very much in love with him,” she said during the trial and added “I have been publicly humiliated.”
Pre-empting the inevitable interest in her life story (she has been played by actresses as distinguished as Ellen Burstyn and Annette Bening, in dramatizations of her tale), she also stated, during the trial “I have lived a quiet, private life and I wanted to die a quiet, private death. It wasn’t meant to be a grandstand play, though it certainly looks that way now.” Her death, on December 23, 2012, was confirmed by her son, James Harris. The cause of her death is not yet known, though she had a history of heart illness.
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