Is the solution to the killings at the yogurt business in two unnamed customers?

Is the solution to the killings at the yogurt business in two unnamed customers?

[This article was first published on February 5, 2022. On August 27, an update was made.]

The murders of four adolescent girls at a yogurt store in Austin, Texas, more than 30 years ago are still unsolved. Before new DNA evidence cast doubt on the participation of those first arrestees, there were arrests followed by convictions, but those convictions were eventually reversed on appeal.

Investigators are at what seems to be a dead end in the case, but there is a theory that two unidentified men who were seen in the yogurt store the night of the murders may have been involved in the unsolved killings that have plagued Austin for decades, as correspondent Erin Moriarty reported in this week’s “48 Hours.”

Yogurt shop victims
The burnt remains of four young females, ages 13 to 17, were found inside the yogurt store. The victims were Jennifer Harbison, top left, who worked at the yogurt business with Eliza Thomas, top right, Sarah, Jennifer Harbison’s younger sister, bottom right, and Amy Ayers, Sarah’s friend, bottom right, starting from the top left. The night of the killings, Sarah and Amy went inside the yogurt store just before it closed. The four females had all been shot, tied up, and gagged.Eliza Thomas, 17, Amy Ayers, 13, Jennifer Harbison, 17, and Sarah Harbison, 15, were shot in the head while being tied up in an Austin “I Can’t Believe It’s Yogurt!” store on December 6, 1991.

It was a crime unlike any other the city had ever witnessed. That evening, Eliza and Jennifer had both been employed at the yogurt business. Jennifer’s sister Sarah and their friend Amy met them there to go home as they were about to close. Investigators think that at least two individuals broke into the store, committed the horrifying act, and then set the building on fire, erasing much of the evidence.

At the time of the crime, John Jones was a member of the Austin Police Department and the case’s principal investigator. Since then, he’s retired. Jones revealed to Moriarty that he and his colleagues followed down customers who were in the yogurt store on the day of the incident to see if they observed anything strange as part of the early investigation. Jones claims that many customers saw two males sitting in the store shortly before it was set to shut who “looked out of place.” Neither guy is said to have bought frozen yogurt; just a drink was.

“They have never been named. And we took every action. We hypnotized several others as well “Moriarty heard from Jones.

Despite the efforts of the detectives, the lead fizzled out, and the case finally vanished. When fresh detectives chose to re-examine a separate old lead in 1999, almost eight years after the killings, there was a pause in the investigation.

Yogurt shop suspects

Nearly 8 years after the deaths at the yogurt business, in October 1999, Austin police reported the detention of four suspects. Maurice Pierce, Forrest Welborn, Robert Springsteen, and Michael Scott are seen going clockwise from top left. Days after the killings, all four men had been interrogated, but none of them had been prosecuted since there was no concrete evidence linking them to the crime. AP ImagesAt the time of the crime, Robert Springsteen, Michael Scott, Maurice Pierce, and Forrest Welborn were all only teens. They were also identified by Jones early on as a result of one of them, Maurice Pierce, being found in possession of a firearm at a mall close to the yogurt store in the days after the incident. Jones and his crew questioned the guys back then, but they were later let go due to a lack of proof.

The guys were once again interrogated by the new investigators in 1999. Robert Springsteen and Michael Scott, two of them, admitted to the killings at the yogurt business and blamed Pierce and Welborn in the process. The next day, police detained all four males.

However, Springsteen and Scott quickly retracted their admissions, claiming they had been pressured. Due to a lack of evidence, charges against Pierce and Welborn were finally dismissed.

Only Springsteen and Scott were put to trial. Although they were both found guilty, their sentences were eventually set aside for constitutional reasons. In Scott and Springsteen’s trials, admissions were used against one another and violated the Sixth Amendment right of defendants to face accusers; yet, they were not permitted to cross-examine one another in court.

Before retrying Springsteen and Scott, prosecutors had vaginal swabs from the victims obtained at the time of the murders tested for DNA. By this time, prosecutors intended to use a relatively new sort of DNA testing known as Y-STR testing because they had reason to think that at least one of the victims had been sexually abused. It exclusively looks for DNA from men.

Nobody anticipated what it would show. A partial male DNA profile was retrieved from one of the victims as a consequence of the testing, but the prosecutor’s office was shocked to learn that the DNA sample did not match any of the four males who had been detained. After serving ten years in jail, charges against Springsteen and Scott were dismissed, and they were given their freedom.

Austin yogurt shop post fire

Robert Springsteen and Michael Scott both have Amber Farrelly on their defensive squads. She proposed the idea that the unidentified DNA may really be that of two males who were last seen sitting in the yogurt store just before it closed and who have never been recognized. Police Department of Austin

The two males who were seen sitting in the yogurt store shortly before it was scheduled to shut that evening, according to Farrelly, were referenced by numerous of those customers.

“We don’t know their names. And when you take a step back, you can see that from 4:30 till 11:00 at night, they spoke to 52 individuals without missing a beat. And when many people discuss a man or two men, they all describe him in the same way? And who are those two people, exactly? And they’ve never given us a call? … This gives me reason to believe that they are the guys who did it, according to Farrelly.

As far as you know, were those two unidentified males the final individuals in the yogurt store? Asking Farrelly was Moriarty.

Definitely, Farrelly answered.

The males were allegedly “sort of leaning over the table, talking to one other and kind of whispering, like they didn’t want anybody to hear what they were saying,” according to Farrelly.

One of the individuals, according to her, was characterized as having light, short hair that looked “like a dirty blonde,” being around 5’6″ tall, and being in his late 20s or early 30s. The second guy was reportedly characterized as being “larger,” and both were seen sporting large jackets, according to her. She said that one is believed to have worn a green, “Army fatigue type of looking jacket,” and the other, a black jacket. Farrelly claims that the males are thought to have been using a green vehicle that evening.

Even though he has long since retired, John Jones, the case’s former chief investigator, is still troubled by the unsolved yogurt shop killings. He admitted to “48 Hours” that he still had questions about those unnamed clients.

He said, “Yeah, it’s somewhat of a wonder to me that they haven’t been recognized to this day. Is that proof they committed the crime? No, but that is proof that we must speak with them.

If you have information about the yogurt shop murders, call 512-472-TIPS.

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