By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Turlock convicted killer denied parole for being a safety risk
Harris Nicholas
Nicholas Harris

Parole has been denied for Nicholas Harris, the Turlock man convicted of stabbing a man to death and then setting his car on fire because Harris was upset the man had been talking to his girlfriend.

Harris, 34, of Turlock was found unsuitable for parole at an April 27, hearing of the State Board of Parole Hearings held at the state prison in Jamestown. Stanislaus County Chief Deputy District Attorney Michael D. Houston argued against Harris' parole, stating Harris had a "lack of insight into his crimes” and that his release would pose an unreasonable risk to community safety if paroled. The parole board agreed and denied Harris' parole for five years.

In June 2014, Harris was convicted by a Stanislaus County jury on charges of second-degree murder along with the enhancement he used a deadly weapon and arson for the 2008 murder of Mark Anthony (Tony) Henson, 25, of Turlock.

Early on the morning of Aug. 12, 2008, Turlock Police officers were dispatched to a home on Bennington Avenue in Turlock after a resident found Henson on the front porch bleeding from multiple stab wounds. Henson was rushed to a local hospital, but died from his injuries.

Near where Henson was laying, police officers found Henson's white Mitsubishi engulfed in flames.

Investigators turned their attention to Harris after his girlfriend at the time, Vanessa Bartlett, contacted them after Henson's death and told them Harris had told her he killed Henson. she told the investigators she had seen Harris after the killing and fire and that Harris had various injuries, including burn marks, to his face and hands.

Using a pretext telephone call between the girlfriend and Harris, police were able to record evidence that Harris committed the killing and arson. When police arrested Harris at a family member’s home in Sacramento, they found the knife used in the killing in a vehicle parked in the driveway. Harris confessed to detectives when interviewed.

Bartlett testified during the trial that she and Henson briefly dated, but that it had ended well before she started seeing Harris. She stated in the three weeks prior to Henson’s death, she had seen him three times when he came into her work to order sandwiches. She testified their conversations were never more than small talk and that she did not feel threatened by him. She also testified she told Harris about the encounters and could tell it irritated him.

In her testimony Bartlett recounted Harris telling her on the phone that he went out looking for Henson’s car in the neighborhood with the plan of slashing the tires. When he found the car, he noticed the windows were rolled down and he decided he would go home and get a jack and gasoline with the intention of taking the tires off and putting them in the car and lighting them on fire, according to Bartlett’s testimony.

Harris testified it was never his intention to kill Henson. He stated he planned to set Henson’s car on fire and leave a sandwich or a slice of bread as a message that he should stay away from Bartlett. He testified his plan went awry when he found Henson sleeping in his car. The defense tried to argue that Harris only stabbed Henson because Henson was armed with a butterfly knife, but no knife was ever found in the car, nor in the area where Henson was found.

Harris testified during the trial that he is bi-polar and that he was in a manic state when he repeatedly stabbed Henson and then set his car on fire. He had entered a not guilty by reason of insanity plea. After finding Harris guilty, the same jury determined Harris was sane at the time of the killing. Judge Linda McFadden, who presided over the case, sentenced Harris to16 years-to-life in state prison.

Prior to the parole board hearing, a prison psychologist examined Harris and gave the opinion that he posed a moderate risk of violence to the public if released. Several of Henson's family members who attended the hearing also argued against Harris’ release.

“Sixteen years just doesn't seem enough for the loss of my son or any person who has been brutally attacked and killed, however, it is a punishment, and for that I am grateful,” said Henson’s mother Christie Henson at the conclusion of the trial. “But it's not the end, it is just a break before the fight to keep him in prison begins for I will be at every parole hearing to tell my son’s story. There is no winning here for either family.”

This was Harris' first parole hearing. He will be eligible again in 2026.