A deceased Florida deputy has been found responsible for the rape and murder of an 11-year-old in 1983, a case that remained unsolved until now, according to the the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office. James Howard Harrison, who died in 2008, has been found to be the only probable suspect in the case after authorities re-examined the case.
“We have established probable cause to determine that Harrison abducted, sexually assaulted and murdered the juvenile victim and later altered the crime scene by placing the victim in a drainage ditch in an attempt to destroy physical evidence,” Chief deputy Brian Hester said in a statement about the crime.
On November 6, 1983, witnesses saw Harrison watching Lora Ann Huizar from a local gas station around the time she disappeared, but when authorities began to look into him as a suspect, they found that he was assigned to be on patrol in the area at the time, CBS News reported. There was nothing else linking him to the crime.
Three days later, Huizar’s body was found in an area that Huziar had been seen walking, but where the body was found was also within the boundaries of his patrol duties, according to police.
Recently, St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office reopened the case, and in 2021, unknown DNA was found in Huziar’s sexual assault kit, and police exhumed Harrison’s body but weren’t able to make a match because of body degradation. However, detectives found that two witnesses who were on the scene when Huizar’s body was found were asked to leave the scene before other authorities arrived, and once they did, the body was found in a different location once authorities arrived, police said.
Harrison also had a history of “inappropriate behavior involving juvenile female,” according to the sheriff’s office.
Police believe he may have been responsible for other sexual assault cases as well.
The sheriff’s office asked the public to contact the St. Lucie County Criminal Investigation Division if anyone may have more information about crimes Harrison was involved in.