Michele resided on a 252-acre estate on Hagadorn Road in Owego, New York in 2001. She was in the process of divorcing her husband, Calvin Harris, at the time of her disappearance; she had filed for divorce eight months previously. A photograph of Calvin is posted below this case summary. Michele and Calvin have four children together and the family was all residing at the same house. Michele's attorney said that she had obtained an order of protection from Calvin while they continued to live together. It prohibited any mental or physical abuse. The divorce was described as complicated, and Calvin did not want to end the marriage. Michele had sexual relationships with several other men while she was married to Calvin, and Calvin had been unfaithful as well.
Michele's attorney stated she feared the power of Calvin and her in-laws, who owned several car dealerships in the local region and are considered a prominent business family. Her lawyer said that the divorce would be finalized soon and Michele would be financially secure for the rest of her life. Calvin had offered her custody of their children and $80,000 a year for the next ten years. Michele's loved ones said that she was looking forward to a fresh start with her children. She had taken a job at Lefty's, a restaurant in the 400 block of Broad Street in Waverly, New York, and sometimes went to bars after work. Calvin told family members and the police that Michele was drinking heavily and possibly using cocaine around the time of her disappearance, but Michele's relatives and friends deny that she ever drank to excess or used illegal drugs. Her boss describes her as an ideal employee who was well-liked by her coworkers and restaurant patrons.
Michele planned to visit New York City on September 13 and 14. She told Calvin she planned to meet a former classmate from the State University of New York at Morrisville, where she'd gotten an associate's degree in business administration. Michele told others, however, that she was going to New York City to pawn some of her jewelry, including her Rolex watch and two-carat diamond engagement ring. She was having financial problems at the time. Calvin was ordered to cover the mortgage, bills and other household expenses in addition to giving Michele $400 a week in spending money, but she had run up $16,000 in credit card debt and owed $1,000 to her children's babysitter.
Michele spent the day of September 11, 2001 with her family. She worked her evening shift and departed from the establishment at 9:30 p.m. She never arrived at her own home and has not been heard from again. Michele's minivan, a gold 2000 Ford Winstar with New York dealer plates, was discovered abandoned on September 12 by the Harris family housekeeper. It was on the road shoulder near the entrance to the Harris property in the vicinity of the 300 block of Hagadorn Hill Road in Spencer, New York. They keys were still in the ignition. An extensive search of the area produced no clues as to Michele's whereabouts. There has been no activity on her cellular phone, bank accounts, or credit cards since her disappearance. Tiny drops of her blood were found in the kitchen and garage of her home. There were no other indications of foul play.
Calvin suggested other men in Michele's life might have caused her disappearance. She was seeing two boyfriends at the time she went missing. On the night Michele disappeared, she had drinks with one of her boyfriends, Michael Kasper, and a friend of his, Michael Hakes, then stopped at the Barton, New York apartment of her second boyfriend, Brian Earley. He said she left between 11:00 and 11:30 p.m. Michele' relationship with Kasper was a secret; not even her best friend knew about it. Earley, who had met her in the fall of 2000, said he loved her and hoped to marry her after her divorce from Calvin was final. Authorities took a closer look at Hakes when they found out he was a convicted rapist who had served a decade in prison in Arizona. They could find nothing to tie him to Michele's disappearance, however. All three men cooperated fully with the investigation and passed polygraphs.
According to witnesses, Calvin seemed unusually calm and nonchalant about his wife's disappearance. Only a week after she vanished, he said he planned to sell all her belongings at a garage sale. Within three weeks, he rekindled a relationship with an old girlfriend. Police considered him the prime suspect in Michele's disappearance from the onset of the investigation, but he didn't face charges in her case for years.
In 2005, four years after Michele's disappearance, Calvin was charged with murder in connection with her case. The prosecution theorized he beat her to death in her home on the day of her disappearance. A judge threw out the murder indictment in early 2007, citing flaws in the grand jury proceedings. Calvin was re-indicted on the same charge less than a month later. A blood spatter expert testified, saying the bloodstains in Michele's kitchen and garage appeared to be fresh and their size and shape were indicative of blunt force trauma. Calvin's attorney argued there was no evidence to indicate Michele was even deceased.
Calvin was convicted of second-degree murder in June 2007. However, in November 2007, a judge overturned the conviction and ordered another trial. The judge based his decision on the testimony of a surprise witness who came forward after Calvin's conviction and claimed to have seen Michele alive, hours after Calvin supposedly killed her. The witness said she was standing at the foot of her driveway, arguing with another man. Calvin was re-tried in August 2009 and convicted of second-degree murder again. He was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. But in October 2012, the conviction was overturned again. At his third trial in May 2015, the jury was unable to reach a verdict and the judge declared a mistrial. At his fourth murder trial in the spring of 2016, Calvin waived his right to trial by jury and was tried by a judge instead. He was acquitted of all charges.
Calvin and Michele's children have supported Calvin since her disappearance, saying they fully believed in their father's innocence. Foul play is suspected in Michele's disappearance due to the circumstances involved.
New York State Police