TX TX - Yogurt Shop Murders, Austin, 6 Dec 1991

Discussion in 'Cold Cases' started by colette, Jan 1, 2009.

  1. Nyla4

    Nyla4 Member

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    Awesome post. :rocker: I feel the same way.I agree with everything you said. I don't believe in the conspiracy angles but I do listen and look at them as process of elimination. I believe the DNA sample left in thirteen year old Amy is the key to solving this. Is there any way they can tell from the DNA that the race of the *** who raped her? Or anything else about him? Maybe if they can it will help if they ever develop some real suspects.

    This may be reaching but I have always if Maurice Pierce the supposed "mastermind" had some form of PTSD and that's why he attacked that LEO and got himself killed. I could never understand if LE was so sure he was the mastermind how come they dropped the charges against him. We know the investigators weren't on the level of normal LE and they had no problem harassing, bulling, and practically forcing those boys/men to confess.

    These girls deserve justice! It's been to long and it is overdue.
     
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  2. no greed

    no greed New Member

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    I have followed this case since the summer of '92. I recommend reading Corey Mitchell's book "Murdered Innocents" for a good overview of case. Jordan Smith of the Austin Chronicle weekly news journal wrote a very good article last December on the 20th anniversary of this painful cold case. After reading his article, I was online doing some investigating. I became aware of this second case involving the murder of Carl and Jane Suraci. I am aware that their murders in 2007 in AZ were somewhat similar to those of the "yogurt shop" victims. Is there any good sources of more information on the Suraci murders?
    By all accounts the step father of two of the yogurt shop murder victims, and the brother of Carl Suraci, has led an exemplary life. Probably a very cruel coincidence. I have contacted law enforcement in both of these cases. I also contacted members of committee that has recommended bringing in outside help in Austin cold cases. I still feel that the guilty perp was probably a serial murderer like Kenneth McDuff. The fact that the "yogurt shop" had an unusually large amount of insurance coverage has always bothered me. A lot of loose ends.
     
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  3. kemo

    kemo Well-Known Member

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    I can find nothing to tie the 2007 murder of Carl and Jane Suraci to the Yogurt Shop murders. I agree: it was "Probably a very cruel coincidence". While there is a lot of commentary about the case (google "the murder of Carl and Jane Suraci”) there is little forensic evidence available and no suspects or other leads.

    From what I gather, the case was originally written off by the Maricopa Sheriff's Dept as a "murder/suicide" only to have the county Coroner's office rule it a double homicide. It is not clear if the Sheriff'sDept then pursued a serious murder investigation. The folks in Aguila AZ are none too pleased with the investigation.

    An interesting sidebar to this case is that the Maricopa Sheriff's Dept is headed by none other than Joe Arpiao; the self-billed "toughest Sheriff in America" and darling of Tebaggers and Conservatives everywhere. He is a product of the odd political role of "Sheriff" in the American West. He is responsible for running the County Jail, which is just a "caretaker-like" responsibility, not Law Enforcement per se, and "real" Law Enforcement in all unincorporated parts of the county, including Aguila. Most voters in the county however live in incorporated areas (like Phoenix) and the Sheriff is pretty irrelevant to their lives. To get elected and raise campaign money, there is a tradition of Sheriffs jumping on whatever political bandwagon seems to appeal to county voters even if it has nothing to do with their actual responsibilities. In Sheriff Joe's case, it is Right Wing Politics in general and Illegal Immigrants in particular. There is little to be gained by increasing law enforcement presence in tiny towns (like Aguila) with few voters.

    No Greed,

    How much Insurance did the Yogurt Shop have and what would have been "normal"? My understanding is that it was owned along with other businesses by some sort of "non-public" investment group that was chartered in the Cayman Islands: either a "shadowy" enterprise or just a means of avoiding taxes in The US.
     
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  4. no greed

    no greed New Member

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    The 4 girls were killed in a "I Can't Believe It's Yogurt, Ltd" shop. Two were employees. Brice Foods, Inc. of Dallas owned ICBY. Bill Brice was CEO of Brice Foods. The shop was in a medium size one story strip mall in a middle class area of Austin.

    In January '93 the parents of the murdered girls sued all of the above. The case was to be heard before a judge on 2/28/94. In January '94 the parents accepted a 12 million dollar settlement. The legal team disclosed that most of the funds were from insurance coverage. I do not know the breakdown of the settlement. Normally the land owner would have the most coverage because of the parking lot and structure, but not much liability. Most small food service companies carry a few hundred thousand for slips, trips, food poisoning, etc. Most court decisions have determined that companies practicing a business with the public is not liable for third party murders. If anybody would like to share greater, more accurate knowledge, of the insurance situation, please do.

    On October,5 '99 a jury in San Antonio found Brice Foods guilty of a $20 million investor fraud that was perpetrated from early '91 forward. The money was never found and the clients of Crescendo Investments who prevailed in the suit settled for pennies on the dollar. The Crescendo clients and the parents shared some of the same legal representatives. The Brice Foods conviction never received much publicity. This was significant fraud, but it was never discovered if any of the funds went into the parents settlement. Possibly the fact that a few hours after the Brice conviction was announced, the Austin Police department announced a break in the Yogurt Shop case, and arrests of suspects.

    I was not aware that the Suraci murders were first treated as a murder/suicide.
    How long before it was determined? I am sure the crime scene was significantly compromised by the fire, (probably volunteer fire response) and the homicide delay. Great background information about the politics of the law enforcement in the area. I know that the two cold cases have a common relative. I believe both were homicide by gun shot. I know that both structures were torched fter the homicides. Any other details on the Arizona cold case available. I know they lived in a semi rural area. Only a handful of houses per square mile. I believe Carl and Jane had about 50 acres of property? With dogs on the property, I can not believe they had no warning. Did they call out on a phone? We're they armed? Was anything of significance taken? We're they wealthy? I saw where the property was asking $700,000 when it was for sale. I understand they were counselors back in Virginia? I read on line that they were able to visit family and friends in Virginia the summer prior to their murders. Did everything look and sound normal?

    I know it is not likely these cold cases are related. They both need to solved for their own reasons. To many guilty people are free to create further pain on others. I feel all of the murdered victims in both cases sound like great people. Both cases seem to be disappearing from the focus of law enforcement. I know the loved ones of these victims keep them fresh in their memories.
     
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  5. kemo

    kemo Well-Known Member

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    Very interesting

    I have been out of the Insurance game for a while but as I recall, in California at least, the way it worked is that the Workers Comp Coverage paid off every time an employee was injured or killed on the job. This was essentially "no fault". It didn't matter if the employer was "at fault" or not. I think the basic principle was that payment would be based on anticipated future earnings. It could have been different in Texas. There would have been nothing for the two who were not employees.

    Employers generally also carried Liability Insurance that would cover them if they were "at fault". Liability Insurance would also defend them in court if they were sued over an issue involving "liability". My understanding was that, legally, it wasn't the employer's fault if some criminal walked into a store and killed an employee during a robbery as long as "prudent" security measures were taken. The trouble was that family members who were not satisfied with a $100 to $200K settlement might file a liability claim based on some shortcoming the store's security arrangement. A jury could feel bad for the family member and give them a generous aware. For this reason, Insurance companies may make an offer before any suit is filed.

    $12 Million seems pretty high but it was a horrific crime. It does raise the question: "did the family members really receive all that money?"

    From what I understand, the Suraci's previously lived in Sedona; a pretty "upscale" area in Arizona but moved to Aquila on a small "hobby “ranch. (I.e. it wasn’t a real commercial operation but they could raise horses and perhaps a few cattle and live the life of a Rancher. $700K sounds like a lot for desert land in the middle of nowhere but who knows. Aquila had had a modest influx of retirees who want the "real" Arizona experience. My guess is that were few really rich people there but the Suraci's may have appeared pretty well off. If they lived alone out in the desert, they may have made an easy target.

    From what I can tell, the Suraci's were know and well regarded by other "urban transplant" types in the town. The town appears to be made up of middle class white retiree types and Hispanics who work on a large commercial Melon farm in the area. There was a perception of a "crime wave" by young Hispanic men against the middle class folks that was attributed to methamphetamines. Until the Suracci killings however, it was generally non-violent property claims.

    I got the impression that the other retiree types, who joined "community watch" believed this was just a robbery/murder. I am not aware if anything is known to be stolen. Since this crime may not have been effectively investigated, it is possible that many of your question will remain unanswered.
    .
     
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  6. Dreamnine

    Dreamnine Member

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    Wow... I didn't know of the Suraci murders - more for me to read up on.

    I think of all cases I want the Yogurt shop murders solved the most. Back in the pre-internet days of 91 - when the first Bush was Pres. - they even made headline news in Scotland, radio and TV.
     
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  7. no greed

    no greed New Member

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    Thank you kemo for your input. I agree with all of your insights. Thanks Dreamnine for making me aware of the wide spread publicity of this crime.

    I failed to mention that Morrison Properties were part of the 12 million dollar settlement. They owned the strip mall. I believe the laws in Texas must be very similar to CA. I think the parents received most of this sum, after legal fees.

    The parents established the non profit SAJE with some of the funds. They used SAJE to lobby employers and legislators to take actions that would protect employees. Teen age workers in particular.

    Barbara Suraci lost all of her children. In January '94 her husband quit his job at Dell Computer and enrolled in law school in Tulsa Ok. Their marriage dissolved shortly after. Barbara still resides in the Austin area. She has a knew marriage and career. She owns Southern Hospitality Home that provides assisted living for seniors. Frank Suraci completed law school and is licensed to practice in Texas, Oklahoma, and his home state of VA. He is currently a prosecutor for a DA in VA. Amy's parents moved about one hour from Austin. Eliza's mother recently returned to the Austin area, after several years in the north west USA.

    Carl and Jane Suraci murders seem to be as big as mystery as the YSM's. They do not seem to be much like the other reported crime in the Aguila area before or after. I recently had business trip to Las Vegas. I had an extra day and visited old friends in AZ. I was only an hour from Agula so I could not resist.

    Even with a street address I could not determine which gate belonged to the Suraci property. No houses are viewable from the street. I use street loosely.
    N 529th Ave is a gravel road in bad repair. I do not find Carl and Jane as easy targets at all. Particularly from a night invasion. If you entered a property of this size in the dark that had dogs you would surely be announced. You would have to be familiar with the property. After committing the murders the perp(s) set a fire that could be seen from neighbors. They would have had to traverse this gravel road in the dark past a few houses that were close to the street when they approached the highway. I think this was a high risk murder that was as likely committed by intruders from afar and the past of the Suraci's than it was local meth heads. What could be stolen in the dark that would be worth the risk of these murders? If they did not have a large sum of cash or jewelry I can not imagine. The locals are going to recognize their possessions. I find it difficult to believe that robbery was the primary motive in either of these cold cases.
     
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  8. bessie

    bessie Verified Insider

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  9. kemo

    kemo Well-Known Member

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    http://www.texasmonthly.com/2001-01-01/feature3.php

    The above link is to an article in the Texas Monthly that was written just before Robert Springsteen went to trial. This is before all the DNA stuff came out and "false confession" had entered the national lexicon. Writer Michael Hall is pretty skeptical of the whole thing.
    Now, 12 years later, the consequences of a "false conviction" hang even heavier than that of an unsolved major crime. Officially, they are still claiming they got it right and Springsteen and Scott are guilty but you sort of suspect the lawyers are working out a settlement that will run in the millions.

    Apparently the settlement to the Yogurt shop victim's families did amount to 12 million. Seems like a lot but, I have noticed an interesting fact: According to the step-father ‘s account, (Frank dropped Sarah Harbison and Amy Ayers off so they could help the older girls clean up the shop. This creates a liability situation for the employers since the girls would then be "working" for the employer yet not covered by Workers Comp.

    There are some aspects of the Suraci murders that are similar to the yogurt shop killing (excess violence for a robbery and the fire to cover up evidence) but I can't see how they would fit into this caper. Carl was Frank Suraci's brother and he and Jane lived in Virginia before they moved to Arizona. I don’t see an obvious connection.

    If you read up on Erik Moebius’ bizarre conspiracy theories, you get the impression that Moebius is hinting at, but not coming right out and saying, that Frank Suraci set up his step-daughters to be murdered as part of a wide conspiracy to rip off an insurance company. This is a pretty serious charge. It isn’t much of stretch from there to considering the possibility that Frank.s brother and sister-in-law “had to die” because they knew too much, or something.

     
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  10. no greed

    no greed New Member

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    Even though Eric Moebius was a former Texas assistant attorney general, I give no credence to his accusations. He implicated Frank Suraci and Bill Moerschell as being involved in the YSM's and gambling. I have seen no shred of evidence that supports these implications. He has gotten many facts wrong. From the names of the girls, to elements of the crime scene he has been wrong. He accused Frank of dropping off the younger girls at the yogurt shop shortly before closing. I have read that Frank did not see the girls at all on their final day alive. Sarah Harbison and her best friend Amy Ayers were dropped off at a near by mall by Jennifer Harbison on her way to work. After seeing a movie at the mall theatre the younger girls brought a pizza to the yogurt shop. They were to help the older girls clean up the shop after closing. They were to return home with Jennifer and spend the night together. They had plans for the following Saturday morning. I have wondered why the Suraci's did not show concern about the girls whereabouts before being contacted by police at 3:15AM.
     
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  11. no greed

    no greed New Member

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    I do feel Frank Suraci should be investigated by LE based on statistics. He probably has been investigated. It is a fact that a high percentage of homicides are committed by family and friends. Family members have often been accused wrongly by LE, because they look at them first. I am sure LE has sometimes charged others, when family has been involved. Statistically step fathers are involved in the homicides of their children at a much greater rate than are biological parents. When you exclude cases of murder/suicide in these homicides, the statistical involvement of step parents is remarkably greater. Then if you consider the statistical chance of someone like Frank having family members killed in two separate unsolved homicides by gun and then having the crime scenes burned, I would assume it would be worth investigating. You could even throw in to the statistical mix that his brother in law Tom Adkins M.D., committed suicide by two gun shot wounds to his abdomen. The fact that there has been a lot of trauma in his life does not make him guilty of anything. I would assume that the statistical chance of these incidents would at least force LE to rule him out as a suspect in either cold case.
     
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  12. no greed

    no greed New Member

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    Michael Hall, Jordan Smith, and Corey Mitchell are all writers who have investigated the YSM's and have expressed reservations about the guilt of Springsteen and Scott. They were both convicted of the murders. Two of their friends were suspected, arrested, spent considerable time in jail, but were never charged. The families of the victims seem convinced that they are guilty. I do know that they closely fit the FBI profile of probable perpetrators. I am also aware that they were possibly under the influence of alcohol and LSD on the day of the murders. I do not think they are guilty. Lack of any physical evidence, and the conduct of their lives after the murders are the primary reasons I doubt their guilt. There seems to be considerable evidence that there confessions were given and coerced by LE officers that used some sophisticated tactics on weak individuals who did not understand their rights. I agree with the Safety Commission that it would be advisable for the Austin PD to have a outside LE input on this and other cold cases.
     
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  13. no greed

    no greed New Member

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    Kenneth McDuth, a convicted serial murderer and rapist, allegedly confessed to the YSM's on the day of his execution. Glen Castleberry, a spokesman for TX Dept of Criminal Justice denied that McDuff confessed to the YSM's. The confession was reported by several local news outlets. Anonymous LE told KVUE news that McDuffs confession was not believed because he got key details wrong. I hope that LE has compared his DNA to the DNA at the YSM crime scene. It is known that he was guilty of an abduction, rape, murder, of a young female in Austin within days of the YSM's. He had an accomplice in that case. I would like to believe that the number of people capable of such brutal crimes are quite small.
     
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  14. Snoopster

    Snoopster Well-Known Member

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    I was not familiar with this case before today. What a brutal crime.

    Here is a fairly detailed and critical article about failed efforts to solve the case from about one year ago.

    http://www.austinchronicle.com/news/2011-12-16/scene-of-the-crime/

    Revisiting the yogurt shop murders: A cold case reconsideration of the 1991 crime points away from the prosecution's assumptions and conclusions

    There are a couple of interesting images at the link.

    There is a diagram of the layout of the entire shop, including the location of the girls' bodies. (I didn't post it here since it will likely blow the margins.


    And a photo of the interior of the front part of the shop.

    [​IMG]

     
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  15. teedie2

    teedie2 Well-Known Member

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    All four girls were raped? Only Amy had dna in her?
     
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  16. hopetohelp

    hopetohelp Member

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    I lived in the area and my younger sister worked for an ICBY store about thirty miles away. It was a frightening time. We know MUCH more info now about the crime than was released by LE at the time. So this horrible event was somewhat shrouded in mystery at the time.

    As to the previous posters question about DNA, I believe that foreign hairs possibly capable of providing DNA were found on more than one girl. Amy, I believe, had somehow crawled some distance from the initial fire set on the bodies. I don't know whether that might have left her more intact and therefore a better source for foreign DNA:

    http://www.truthinjustice.org/yogurt1.htm

    "In the end, not one speck of physical evidence was logged by investigators that would link any of the three defendants to the scene of the crime. There were several latent fingerprints found on the lid of a cash register drawer, and at least five hairs were recovered from the girls' bodies or items of their clothing. But after analysis of the fingerprints by a FBI expert and DNA analysis of the hairs by a private company, none of this evidence was linked to any of the victims, the defendants, or any of the other yogurt shop employees. "There is DNA that cannot be attributed to the four victims or the four suspects," DNA specialist William Watson told the jury. Furthermore, he testified, the unmatched hairs came from more than one source. "Persons. These are from more than one individual."

    I personally AM still open to the Moebius claims money laundering. I don't know enough, however, about insurance and banking to know if what he suggests is possible. Anyone with that type of knowledge I would love to hear from. This crime really scarred the Austin and surrounding communities.
     
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  17. hopetohelp

    hopetohelp Member

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    fwiw, I always wondered when Dennis Paul Reid was paroled in Texas in 1990. Was it before these murders? He committed similar crimes at fast food restaurants, including a Baskin Robbins.
     
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  18. hopetohelp

    hopetohelp Member

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    Ok. Reid was apparently paroled in Dec. 1990 and the yogurt shop murders occurred in 1991. Sometime after the murders, he moved to Nashville, purportedly to begin a music career, and his further crimes were committed in Tennessee, and then he moved onto another state.
     
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  19. December

    December Verified insider - Kathy Jones case

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    he is currently on death row in tenneTennessee. he killed many people here. before he lived in Nashville, he lived in chicago.
     
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  20. December

    December Verified insider - Kathy Jones case

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