christinaharms

Christina Harms

Christina Harms was a loving person who enjoyed being a mom, her dad said.

 "Everybody liked her," said Ken Harms of Aberdeen.

 But authorities believe Christina Harms, 22, was killed by the people who were supposed to be caring for her. The woman arrested in Harms' death in Utah, Cassandra Shepard, 27, was her legal guardian and the aunt of Harms' 2-year-old daughter, Harley Harms, Ken Harms said.

 Shepard and the other two people arrested in connection with Christina Harms' death — Shepard's mother, Sherrie Beckering, 50; and stepfather, Dale Beckering, 52 — are all former Aberdeen residents, Ken Harms said.

 Shepard was arrested on the charge of domestic violence murder, and the Beckerings were arrested on the charge of domestic violence abuse of a vulnerable adult, said Lt. Justin Hoyal, public information officer for the Unified Police Department of Greater Salt Lake. All three are being held in the Salt Lake County Jail but had not been officially charged on Tuesday, Hoyal said.

 Hoyal said the Beckerings were Harms' primary caregivers from February 2010 to September, and Shepard was her caregiver from then on.

 Authorities' account of the abuse Harms suffered included her being bound in a crucifixion manner to a metal bar in a closet.

 Ken Harms said his daughter was the type of person who wouldn't hurt anyone, and she cared a lot for her little girl. He's very angry about what happened to his daughter.

 "It's really hard to believe that somebody can do that to a person," Harms said.

 Christina Harms' daughter is in the custody of Utah's Division of Child and Family Services, Hoyal said. Ken Harms said he has told Utah detectives he wants the chance to bring his granddaughter back to Aberdeen.

 Harley's father, Adam Shepard, reportedly lives in Aberdeen, but Ken Harms said he has never had contact with him. Adam Shepard is the brother of Cassandra Shepard, Harms said.

 Cassandra Shepard became Christina Harms' legal guardian after Harms' mother, Linda, died of cancer a few years ago, Ken Harms said. Her mother wanted Christina Harms to live with Shepard and Sherrie Beckering, a distant relative, Ken Harms said. Shepard was her guardian for a year and a half in Aberdeen before moving to Utah a couple of years ago, Ken Harms said.

 Ken Harms said he and Linda Harms adopted their daughter when she was about 6 months old. She had fetal alcohol syndrome, he said, and while she was smart in a lot of ways, she struggled in others.

 Ken Harms said he didn't know Shepard or the Beckerings much at all and had talked to them only a couple of times. He said his daughter enjoyed being a mom, but Shepard pretty much took over and acted as if Harley was her child, he said.

 Brown County court documents from January 2009 show Shepard was also the legal guardian of Harley Harms in Aberdeen.

 Ken Harms said about three years ago, Christina Harms ran away from Shepard's Aberdeen house. When police found her, she told them that Shepard hit her with a 2-by-4, he said.

 A separate Brown County court file shows that in February 2010, Shepard was charged with domestic assault against Christina Harms, though the charge was dismissed.

 Harms last spoke to his daughter when she called him around Christmastime saying she wanted to come live with him. He said he told her to gather her belongings and move in with him.

 About 10 days later, he said, he missed a call from her. Christina Harms left a message crying and saying she decided to stay where she was, her dad said. Harms said he tried four or five times calling his daughter back but never got an answer.

 Harms said he never talked to the Beckerings. He tried to speak with Shepard, who wouldn't talk to him. He said she wouldn't let his daughter talk to him either and said his daughter didn't have access to a phone.