The woman accused of killing a popular American Eagle Outfitters employee tricked store managers when she hired her boyfriend, who is now her co-defendant in a capital murder case, a former store manager testified Wednesday.
Carter Cervantez, 27, who was an assistant manager at the Hulen Mall store, is on trial this week, accused of killing Ashlea Ann Harris, 31, on the day after Thanksgiving 2014.
She and her live-in boyfriend, David Mallory, were arrested soon after Harris’ body was found by firefighters in her apartment.
The former store manager, Chris Cravey, testified that Mallory was fired from the American Eagle store in Amarillo after missing three straight shifts without contacting store managers.
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Cervantez also worked at the Amarillo store. After Mallory was fired, she was transferred to the Hulen Mall store, Cravey said. Apparently they were dating while they were in Amarillo, a violation of store policy, Cravey said.
“Our district manager told us that [Cervantez] needed a fresh start and she was coming to me as an assistant manager,” Cravey said.
Cravey testified that in 2014, he was off work for weeks because of illness and surgery. During that time, Cervantez hired Mallory, Cravey said.
“Carter switched his first name with his middle name and two digits of his Social Security number,” Cravey said.
About 10 days after Cravey returned to work, nearly $18,000 in cash was taken about midnight from the store’s night deposit drop box.
Carter made Ashlea nervous. She said she was definitely going to watch her back,
Chris Cravey, former American Eagle store manager
And after the money went missing, Mallory went missing, Cravey said.
“He never came by to look at the schedule and never returned to the store,” Cravey said. “He was terminated and flagged as non-rehirable.”
Store surveillance video showed the thief covered head to toe taking the cash from the drop box, but Cravey said he didn’t recognize the person. But he suspected Mallory was involved and began reviewing other store surveillance video to memorize his mannerisms.
During the investigation, Cervantez admitted leaving the store unsecured, and was suspended and then fired, Cravey said.
“Carter never worked there again,” Cravey said. “I let my regional director know and he told me to terminate her. [Cervantez] was not happy.”
Cravey said Harris wanted to work for the store’s loss prevention unit, the division that tries to stop theft, and she spent a lot of time reviewing security video. Harris thought Mallory and Cervantez were behind the theft, Cravey said.
“We were told that Carter had applied to a couple of places in the mall,” he testified. “Carter made Ashlea nervous. She said she was definitely going to watch her back.”
Prosecutors Kevin Rousseau and Ashlea Deener have suggested that Cervantez and Mallory were planning an even larger theft after the store’s Black Friday sale, and killed Harris to steal her keys to the store.
The murder was brutal.
Pilar Ramirez, a Fort Worth police crime scene investigator, testified Wednesday that he arrived about 9 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 28, 2014, at an apartment complex in the 4700 block of King Ranch Road where a body had been found after a fire. The complex is just west of the mall.
In the bedroom, he found Harris’ body lying face down next to the footboard of her bed, her hands and feet bound in duct tape, the charred remains of her bed and linens blackened and wet.
What appeared to be bloodstains were on the floor, bed railing and door, Ramirez said. He swabbed the stains and packaged the swabs to be sent to the crime lab for analysis, he said.
Harris’ wallet had two $5 bills inside, which suggested that robbery was not the motive, Ramirez said.
Her keys were never found, Ramirez said.
A neighbor, Alexis Torres, testified that Harris often left her apartment door unlocked when friends were going to tend to her golden retriever, Nala. Harris had to work late on Thanksgiving night because the Black Friday sale actually started Thursday. So Torres checked on the dog.
“I would kind of camouflage that the door was unlocked by using my keys and pretending to unlock and lock her door,” Torres said.
Torres said she had planned to take breakfast to Harris Friday morning and was surprised when Harris never responded to a text message. Torres decided to go to Harris’ apartment anyway.
When she arrived, Harris’ apartment was surrounded by emergency workers, including firefighters and police.
Testimony in state District Judge David Hagerman’s court is scheduled to continue Thursday.
Mallory is also charged with capital murder but will be tried separately. Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty against either defendant.
This includes information from Star-Telegram archives.