The Yogurt Store Murders: Key moments within the Austin, Texas, investigation


CBS Information affiliate


Unidentified DNA discovered on the scene of a 30-year-old quadruple homicide lately raised hopes that this unsolved thriller would possibly lastly be solved — however will it crack the case? “48 Hours”‘ Erin Moriarty has the newest within the seek for solutions in “The Yogurt Shop Murders,” airing Saturday, February 5 at 10/9c on CBS and Paramount+.


On December 6, 1991, a hearth was reported inside an I Cannot Consider It is Yogurt! store in Austin, Texas. As soon as the fireplace was extinguished, investigators made a discovery inside the shop that haunts town to this present day.  

Younger lives lower quick

Yogurt shop victims

AP


Contained in the yogurt store had been the charred our bodies of 4 teenage women starting from 13 to 17 years outdated. The victims clockwise from prime left, Amy Ayers, Eliza Thomas, Sarah Harbison and Jennifer Harbison.

Jennifer and Eliza had been working within the yogurt store. Jennifer’s youthful sister Sarah and Sarah’s good friend Amy Ayers had been visiting the  store shortly earlier than closing on the night time of the murders. All 4 women had been gagged, tied up and shot.

The Harbison sisters

Sarah and Jennifer Harbison

Austin Police Division


Sarah Harbison, left, and Jennifer Harbison are pictured in an undated picture with their mom. Jennifer was 17 when she was killed within the yogurt store murders; her sister Sarah was 15.

Amy Ayers and household

Amy Ayers an her family

Austin Police Division


At 13 years outdated, Amy Ayers was the youngest of the victims of the yogurt store murders. She is pictured along with her household in an earlier, undated picture.

Sonora Thomas along with her sister Eliza

Sonora and Eliza Thomas

Sonora Thomas


,Eliza Thomas, proper, was 17 when she was murdered contained in the yogurt store. On this picture taken just a few months earlier than her demise, Eliza is seen along with her youthful sister Sonora, who was 13 when her sister died.

“I bear in mind fantasizing for days that my sister had in some way escaped and ran away and was hiding … I used to be always fantasizing that she was going to return again,” Sonora advised “48 Hours” in 2021.

“She was at all times caring for me”

Sonora and Eliza Thomas

Sonora Thomas


Three-year-old Sonora Thomas, left, shares a hug along with her sister Eliza on this 1981 household picture. In speaking about her large sister, Sonora advised “48 Hours,” “She was at all times caring for me … Each second, each reminiscence that you’ve got, she was within the background or within the foreground.”

Charred particles inside yogurt store

Yogurt shop murders evidence

Austin Police Division


The hearth contained in the yogurt store was so intense that it made gathering proof very tough. Seen here’s a charred and collapsed shelving unit from the again of the store.

Charred particles inside yogurt store

Yogurt shop murders evidence

Austin Police Division


A melted cellphone clings to the wall contained in the yogurt store.

John Jones on the scene

Austin Detective John Jones

CBS Information affiliate


Detective John Jones, left, seen talking with fellow investigators on the scene of the crime, led the investigation for the Austin Police Division for almost 4 years. He has lengthy since retired, however the case isn’t removed from his thoughts.  “I can nonetheless see the within of that place … That stuff’s … indelibly burned in my thoughts,” he advised “48 Hours” in 2021.

Fixed reminders

Yogurt shop victims

CBS Information


To this present day, retired Detective Jones retains a mug that reads “We Will Not Neglect,” together with this medallion on his desk, as a reminder of this unsolved case.

Public appeals for assist

Yogurt shop murders

CBS Information affiliate


Within the wake of the murders, an unprecedented name for data from the general public was launched. Pictures of the ladies and requests for ideas appeared on billboards all through town, and even on the again of Austin taxi cabs like this one photographed in February 1992.

A Mexico connection?

Yogurt shop murder investigation

Austin Police Division


Within the fall of 1992, two males wished for an unrelated kidnapping and sexual assault in Austin had been arrested in Mexico. One of many males seen right here bore a placing resemblance to somebody witnesses reported seeing outdoors the yogurt store on the night time of the murders. When questioned by Austin investigators the boys initially denied any involvement within the yogurt store murders, however when interrogated by Mexican authorities they confessed. Nevertheless, particulars they gave did not match the proof discovered on the crime scene and when Austin detectives re-questioned the boys they recanted.

Suspects arrested

Yogurt shop suspects

AP Pictures


In October 1999, almost eight years after the yogurt store murders, Austin police introduced the arrest of 4 suspects within the case. Pictured clockwise from prime left are Maurice Pierce, Forrest Welborn, Robert Springsteen, and Michael Scott. All 4 males had been questioned inside days of the murders, however the lack of any arduous proof connecting them to the crime meant that none of them had been charged on the time. 

Eight years later, police obtained confessions from each Springsteen and Scott. Whereas Welborn and Pierce had been initially charged, these costs had been finally dropped attributable to lack of proof, although Springsteen and Scott would each face trial.

Confessions and convictions

Michael Scott interrogation

Austin Police Division


Michael Scott, seated proper, is pictured in 1999 being questioned by Austin Police. His 20-hour interrogation happened over the course of 4 days, throughout which Scott confessed to collaborating within the yogurt store murders. Days later, Robert Springsteen additionally confessed below questioning. Regardless of each males later claiming their confessions had been coerced, they might finally be convicted. 

Convictions and the Structure

Robert Springsteen interrogation

Austin Police Division


Robert Springsteen, speaks to Austin police in 1999. Springsteen’s and Scott’s confessions had been used towards one another at their trials, however they weren’t allowed to query one another in courtroom. In consequence, 5 years after every man was discovered responsible, their convictions had been overturned on the grounds that their Constitutional proper to confront their accusers had been violated

Shocking DNA outcomes

DNA

Pond5


In 2008, a brand new sort of DNA testing known as Y-STR revealed that none of the 4 males initially arrested for this crime had been a match for DNA discovered on the crime scene. After receiving these outcomes, the District Legal professional in Austin dropped the costs towards Robert Springsteen and Michael Scott.

A promising lead?

FBI letter to U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul

FBI letter to U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul


Seen here’s a portion of a letter the FBI despatched to U.S. Congressman Michael McCaul from Texas in April 2020. It references what was initially regarded as essentially the most promising lead in decades- the invention of what gave the impression to be a ‘match’ between a DNA pattern taken from the crime scene to a DNA pattern that the FBI had contributed to a specialised Y-STR (male solely) database in 2014. 

The letter signifies that the DNA pattern offered by the Austin Police Division was sadly decided to not be a match after additional testing was carried out in early 2020. Regardless of what McCaul described as solely a “very restricted” DNA pattern left, the Congressman stays hopeful. “We’re ready for … DNA science to enhance to then resubmit what we now have left within the crime lab for additional testing,” he advised “48 Hours.”

thirtieth anniversary vigil

Yogurt shop memorial

KEYE


In December 2021, on the thirtieth anniversary of the unsolved murders of Amy Ayers, Eliza Thomas, and Jennifer and Sarah Harbison, Austinites positioned flowers across the memorial plaque that sits throughout from the location of the previous yogurt store.

 When you’ve got details about the yogurt store murders, name 512-472-TIPS.



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