The Dateline NBC episode “Black Friday” investigates the 2014 murder of Ashlea Ann Harris. The 31-year-old was an assistant manager at the American Eagle Outfitters store in the Abilene mall in Texas. On the day after Thanksgiving — known in the retail world as Black Friday — Harris’s beaten dead body was found bound in her apartment which was set on fire. The two people convicted of her murder were Harris’ former co-workers: Clarence David Mallory, 19, and his live-in girlfriend Carter Carol Cervantez, 25. According to prosecutors, Mallory and Cervantez beat and bound Harris to steal the keys to the American Eagle store and planned to rob the store. The young couple had robbed an American Eagle store in a nearby mall three months prior, in August, during back-to-school sales.
Prosecutors claim Cervantez was the mastermind of the murder/robbery plot and that she manipulated Mallory although Cervantez testified that she was raped when she did not do what Mallory wanted. Her defense attorney Steve Gordon argued: “If the intent to murder Ashlea was developed by Mr. Mallory and some others, would it be smart, would it be wise to bring along someone who could have been blown away by a strong breeze?” Gordon was referring to Cervantez’s slight physical stature. Mallory and Cervantez were both found guilty of capital murder and sentenced to life in prison. Harris’ stepfather Charles Cassity said: “Our personal preference would have been that they both would be executed. But the state made the decision to not pursue the death penalty. The overall lack of a criminal history and Mallory’s age at the time the crime was committed contributed to that decision I’m sure.” Dateline NBC airs Fridays at 9pm.