|Body of American basketball player Tony Harris found in Brazil|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 19 November 2007 13:22|
The body of Tony Harris was slumped against a tree in an Army training ground with the shoelace from one of his sneakers wrapped around his neck, said police spokesman Norton Luiz. The body was found Sunday after police received an anonymous tip.
``We believe he may have committed suicide because it appears the body fell from one of the tree's branches, although we are not ruling out homicide,'' Luiz said.
Harris, who would have turned 37 Sunday, played on the Washington State team that reached the 1994 East Regional of the NCAA tournament.
Luiz said the state of the body indicates Harris died about five days before he was found near the small town of Formosa.
U.S. Embassy spokesman Richard Mei said the body was ``so decomposed that visual identification was impossible. We have asked that his fingerprints and dental records be sent from Seattle.''
Harris' father-in-law and a family friend had arrived in Goiania, capital of Goias state, Luiz said. The body is expected to be flown back to the United States in a few days for burial.
Harris was reported missing Nov. 4, three days after his debut as a shooting guard for the Brazilian team, said Jorge Bastos, one of Universo's directors.
``According to some of the other players, Harris appeared to be nervous and overly anxious about something,'' Bastos said. ``But he never said what was bothering him.''
Witnesses say he took a long-distance taxi trip that day, but jumped out at a gas station in Formosa, ``leaving behind his laptop and clothes,'' town police chief Pedromar Augusto de Souza said.
On Nov. 7, the owner of a luncheonette in the town saw Harris walking past the gas station, Souza said.
Harris, a leader of the Washington State team, averaged 12.4 points and 4.3 rebounds in two seasons at WSU.
``This is a tragic loss for the Harris families and for the Cougar Nation,'' Washington State said in a statement. ``None of us will ever understand why this happened. Tony was an inspirational player and a key member of two WSU basketball teams.''
Harris played on the state championship teams at Garfield High School in Seattle. After college, he played in Asia and South America, including a previous stint in Brazil.
He returned to Seattle and recently worked as a counselor at Echo Glen, a juvenile rehabilitation facility. That job ended when he was not hired permanently in February, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported.
The player's wife told The Seattle Times last week that her husband sounded anxious in his first phone call to her since arriving in Brazil.
Lori Harris, who is expected to give birth to the couple's first child in December, said that the last time Harris played in Brazil, ``he didn't leave on good terms.''
``He heard that his old coach said some things that were not true, (things) that could put him at risk.''
She told the newspaper her husband couldn't leave because the team was holding his passport, so he planned to stay with a friend in northern Brazil and wait for a replacement.
Universo director Ricardo Oliviera said the team needed the passport to register Harris for the Nov. 4 game and for a visa to work in Brazil. He said the team planned to return it to him within days.