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

no greed

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25+ years later this case is unsolved. I am going to list a few occurrences that make me suspect powerful influences are involved.
1. Handling of autopsy reports were handled differently than norm.
2. Considerable state and federal involvement without positive results.
3. The large out of court settlement paid to the YSM victims parents.
4. The 1995 Crime Stopper interview with lead APD detective Jones was shown to 130,000 Texas inmates via closed circuit TV. Unusual in doing, and very unusual not to get any response despite a lucrative tip reward offer.
5. Coincidences of 1999. The sudden creation of a cold case unit focused on Maurice Pierce, by APD in August at the same time a San Antonio jury was being convened to look at allegations of fraud by Brice Foods. The APD arrest of four suspects 1 day after the SA jury found probable cause that top Brice Food executives were guilty of defrauding investors and opening up company records to discovery.
 

no greed

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6. Concerns about the legal handling of the suspects are numerous. Refusals of change of venue motions in the Scott and Sprinsteen trials are at the top of flagrant deviation from the norm.

7. The 2005 independent investigation of the 2004 death of APD Commander Shauna Jacobson.

8. The continued insistence of APD homicide and the DA's office that the four suspects arrested are guilty despite no physical evidence and no other history of major violence. What physical evidence police have including DNA does not put any of them at crime scene.

9. The 12/23/10 stopping of Maurice Peirce in a quiet residential neighborhood of Austin. He was a couple of blocks from his sisters home who he was visiting for the holidays.

10. Failure of a liberal Austin City Council in 2012 to fund a popular recommendation of the Public Safety Commission that would have provided outside oversight of cold cases. Starting with the YSM case. There had been much publicity of this case on its 20th anniversary locally. There was much public support generally and of a few powerful people locally to reopen this investigation. The Council delayed their decision and the found a way to not fund, without generating any local publicity.

11. Lack of APD cooperation in using DNA evidence to find unknown suspects. The failure of the APD crime lab to protect DNA evidence of many cases and properly train employees is a
problem with a long history.
 

Tuffgong

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You are engaging in a lot of wild speculation. And please don't try to read anything into Pierce's death. Nobody, not even his family felt that there was anything suspicious about his death. The police officer that pulled him over had no idea who he was. Pierce freaked out and ran and then tried to kill the officer. Yes, he was paranoid and worried that he was being targeted, but he was not that night. I have read the conspiracy thesis put forward by Mobus and I think it disrespects the search for the truth by trying to drum up nonsense conspiratorial theories. I think the police are hung up on the original three because of the confessions. The officers don't believe they coerced those confessions and as such, are convinced they must have done it. Of course, like I said, the confessions did not connect with the DNA. I also think the initial incident that drew the police to the original four, Pierce claiming Wellborne told him he did it, was ludicrous. If Pierce had in fact done it, why in the world would he implicate himself in the crime by fingering an accomplice? It is an insane case. Like I said, maybe the four did it, but there is absolutely no proof at all, that they did, and their arrest would have been a million to one shot. Plus, if the four planned it and even thought to bring accellerant, why didn't they bring something to tie the girls up with? I think the attack was planned inside the shop, at that booth, probably one to two hours before it occurred. I think it was two guys, I think odds are that neither is still alive. Odds of ever solving this case, zero.

As for all of the mistakes made in the investigation and lab work, you are not from Austin, are you? I am, and I know that APD screwing up is the norm.
 

Tuffgong

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They are the embodiment of the conservative Texan. 100% trust in what the police and DA tell them. They will not question authority, they have faith in the criminal justice system. The family was not typical of Austinites, they were very rural in nature. I think they want to believe and need to believe that the culprits were caught, will always believe what the state told them.
 

Tuffgong

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A couple of things pertaining to this case that I am forever hung up on.

1. Jennifer Harbison was getting death threats, numerous death threats. She was a 17 year old girl. I am of the belief anybody willing to leave anonymous death threats for someone, especially someone that young, is someone capable of murder. Perhaps it was a deranged customer that had made advancements towards here and was was rebuked. The manager of the store claimed that somebody had gained access to the ceiling of the store and had been spying on employees, claimed they accessed the ceiling from the bathroom stall. I think if a psychopath wanted to kill Jennifer, they way she was killed, would fill every twisted desire they had, rape, tied up with their own clothing, set on fire. This scenario seems plausible and means the crime was not random or motivated by robbery.

2. Springsteen's confession. It was quick! I know what coercion is, but coercion takes time. Springsteen ended up acknowledging pretty quick and he did bring up stuff that I don't believe was ever leaked. I understand that people believe the police fed information to the suspects. However, two things were held back, the caliber of the second gun and the positions of the bodies. Springsteen outright claimed that the other gun was a .380, and it was. He also described how Amy was lying. I don't think he got this info from the cop or off the streets. He was also somewhat casual in how he answered questions, arrogantly exclaiming that maybe he did commit the crime. When you read Springsteen's interrogation, you cannot help but consider him a viable suspect. Now, I know what you are going to say, he got stuff wrong the DNA did not support his story. However, remember, by their own admission, they were doing drugs that night, acid to be exact. His state of mind was in question. Now, hear me out, what if Scott and Springsteen were both confused on what exactly happened because of the drugs. What if the stories they told about what happened developed after the crime, when they tried to piece it together later. Maybe together they settled on a story of what happened, with some stuff being accurate and some stuff being way off. This could explain how they got some stuff right and some stuff wrong. It could also explain how maybe they themselves were confused about who was there. Perhaps Pierce and Wellborn weren't there, but Scott, Springsteen and two other people were. Wellborn and Pierce never ever confessed to taking part in this, and they were interrogated just like Scott and Springsteen.

This case just messes with your mind so much.
 

kemo

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The phenomenon of false confession is hard to come to grips with.

There are three identified types of false confessions:

Voluntary False Confessions, where the confessor is often mentally ill or attention seeking.

Coerced-Compliant, where the confessor does not really believe they are guilty but confesses out of fear of their interrogator, to relieve the duress of a long ongoing interrogation, or because they believe they will gain some advantage.

The third type is the Coerced-internalized false confession, where they come to believe they really committed the crime. This is what happens when the Reid Method is applied to a susceptible subject.

I have never been subject to any police interrogation so I can't really say but I can not imagine how I could be convinced I had committed a serious crime. Still, we know it happens.

The Arizona Buddhist Temple murders are a classic example of how False Confessions occur: after 31 hours of questioning, all four kids confessed. It was an "open and shut case" until two other kids turned up with the murder weapon and gave a full confession with a lot more details.

http://www.miranda-vs-arizona.com/220FalseConfessionsTheTucsonFour.htm

One common pattern of False Confessions is that they know details the police knew but were "withheld" from the public while they don't know details that the police didn't know. This is consistent with Springsteen knowing the caliber of the second gun, which the interrogators certainly know, but not know who had raped whom since the DNA results were not available at that time.

Law enforcement, prosecutors, jurors, and the general public have come around to the reality of false confessions and it is now standard procedure to require other evidence to back up any confession.
 

Tuffgong

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The phenomenon of false confession is hard to come to grips with.

There are three identified types of false confessions:

Voluntary False Confessions, where the confessor is often mentally ill or attention seeking.

Coerced-Compliant, where the confessor does not really believe they are guilty but confesses out of fear of their interrogator, to relieve the duress of a long ongoing interrogation, or because they believe they will gain some advantage.

The third type is the Coerced-internalized false confession, where they come to believe they really committed the crime. This is what happens when the Reid Method is applied to a susceptible subject.

I have never been subject to any police interrogation so I can't really say but I can not imagine how I could be convinced I had committed a serious crime. Still, we know it happens.

The Arizona Buddhist Temple murders are a classic example of how False Confessions occur: after 31 hours of questioning, all four kids confessed. It was an "open and shut case" until two other kids turned up with the murder weapon and gave a full confession with a lot more details.

http://www.miranda-vs-arizona.com/220FalseConfessionsTheTucsonFour.htm

One common pattern of False Confessions is that they know details the police knew but were "withheld" from the public while they don't know details that the police didn't know. This is consistent with Springsteen knowing the caliber of the second gun, which the interrogators certainly know, but not know who had raped whom since the DNA results were not available at that time.

Law enforcement, prosecutors, jurors, and the general public have come around to the reality of false confessions and it is now standard procedure to require other evidence to back up any confession.

My question is, is it possible because of diminished capacity, stress, drug use, etc.. that Springsteen and Scott simply could not with any certainty remember just how exactly things went down. People can get drunk or high and do something crazy, then the next morning, not really know what happened or be cloudy as to what happened. If that is the case, someone would be willing to acknowledge their participation, but not be real certain about all the specifics. I don't think Springsteen cracked because of the Reid Method, because the interrogation was short and Springsteen had a clear and open path to the door. Was told he could leave multiple times. He was not trapped. If these guys were not real smart to begin with and had dropped acid, well, they are not going to be real consistent in their interrogation. But maybe the two of them tried to piece the story together over the years and the rough outline of what they could remember became the story. Personally I was off these guys, but after reading the book again and reading about the interrogation, Springsteen's confession troubles me.
 

singularity

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Most all of the info regarding insurance fraud is definitely "out there", and is probably not worthy of discussion..
Yep.They've got cop conspiracies, insurance conspiracies, *advertiser censored* conspiracies. Pure garbage.

Nowadays no matter what happens or how many people were killed, people come out of the woodwork with conspiracy theories, yelling "false flag!!", and other assorted nonsense.

Its a huge insult to the victims.

You can throw me in with the minority who believe they knew their killers...or at least one of the girls did.

The timing of it was a possible clue that seems to have went nowhere. Of all nights for this tragedy to happen, its the night when Sarah and her friend Amy are there. It might mean nothing, it might mean everything.

In the crime scene photo, you see the empty booth is the one closest to the register, as if the killers may have been sitting there talking to the girls as they're about to close up shop. Also the fact that the killers just drank soda(supposedly) sounds like something acquaintances might do as they're just hanging out and not real customers.



As many others have brought up, why rob the yogurt shop? There's got to be plenty of pizza parlors, gas stations, etc. open at that hour in the general vicinity that would have more money than ICBIY.

No matter what the real motive was, it escalated very quickly and the entire scenario finished very quickly. Witnesses there not long before closing and the call came in at 11:47.

Its unfortunate that extreme tunnel vision took over and derailed the investigation.



Therefore I feel this wasn't a robbery gone awry, depending on the nature and origination of the bindings, it seems waaaaay too organized, for a bunch of crazy teen boys,
Way too organized? I guess that would depend on how you interpret the word organized. The girls were bound with their own clothing meaning nothing to restrain them was brought to the scene, a couple of the victims were strangled as well as shot, a couple victims also sodomized, no attempt to get into the room containing the safe even though robbery is the motive on the surface, etc.

That sounds the opposite of organized. Its very helter skelter.


The back door was not used to access the shop, so the back door was not propped open and whoever the sketchy guy who went to the bathroom that the former cop had seen was, he had nothing to do with the crime.
That actually doesn't rule him out. All it would mean is that he didn't leave through the back door, prop it open, and then come back.

2) Although it seems obvious that Springsteen and Scott were railroaded, some parts of their stories are still bothersome. The fact that Pierce volunteered (at the mall) that the gun he was carrying might have been used by someone else in the killings (which it actually wasn't) is disturbing.
What's much more disturbing than that is the fact LE and DA thought they were involved even though zero evidence backs this up. For these boys to be involved would mean another group of people would've needed to be there to do the raping and killing.


Also, how did Springsteen know (and could demonstrate) the contorted position in which Amy laid after she died?
They didn't do it. When suspects have to constantly be fed information about what happened in the shop yet continually get information wrong(and didn't rape any of the victims) it's a sign that they're not involved.


Completely agreed. Having seen the videoed confessions in their entirety though, I do not believe that to be the case in this situation.

It basically became a multiple choice quiz. They kept getting answers wrong, were told to try again, and just went down the list until it was the answer LE wanted. Keep repeating until you have a "confession".

This case wasn't the pursuit of justice. It was the pursuit of horse manure.

The piece about the guy who went behind the counter is interesting. It seemed as if Eliza Thomas knew the individual who went behind the counter to use the restroom and let him go to the back room,

This is my feeling as well...regardless of how suspicious the witnesses describe these suspects. A girl unlikely to let a strange, suspicious guy go in the back to use the restroom while they are in the process of wrapping everything up for the night.

He probably hung out there a while until the officer left. Two men had been lingering for at least an hour before close. The front door was locked at close, which means they stayed behind, probably because the girls allowed them to. Did they meet them that night and befriend, or did they know them for a while? Either way, they didn't think they were a threat up until the murder took place. Did the 2 who went to the movies meet them and bring them back? Did these guys meet the girls in the shop that night and ask what they were doing after? Did they all know each other before this night? No matter what the answer is, it seems as if there were plans made for after close with these guys.

Million dollar questions in that post.,,and I agree with your last sentence.

Movies, malls, and pizzas....all three involving locations where girls can meet up with guys and two of the murder victims(the youngest) had just been to all three prior to the murders. Like you said, was it random guys they possibly stumbled across that night or guys some of the girls already know?

In either scenario(or even complete strangers), what's frightening is the rate of escalation. In the span of 30-45 minutes we go from robbery(?), assault, rape, sodomy, murder, and arson.

What sparked the chain reaction?

We've all heard of so called "robbery gone wrong" scenarios but this case really takes it to such an extreme it makes you wonder if its even a real motive. It might've been a last second decision to grab the cash on the way out the door.

The can of soda was left unopened on the counter. After the door was locked and the shop was closed, the whole group would have gone to the back room, which is when this all took place, somewhere within a half an hour to forty-five minutes. All we know for certain is that one of these guys raped two of these girls. Probably the girls were stuck there at gunpoint, but the backdoor was also right there and no one was able to escape, though it's the way these two males exited, since the front door was still locked.
Yeah...a lot going down in a short period of time in a very small space. As far as no one escaping, the girls likely 'froze'(as many would do) and before you have any real time to think, it's already too late.

I need to read the latest book. Its been a long time since I read Murdered Innocents.
 

Tuffgong

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The cases against the original four were not the strongest, largely due to the destruction of the crime scene by the fire and fire department. The confessions were somewhat coerced, but also damming. The DNA evidence has been disputed, with the DA saying they have one sample of DNA and the defense claiming three. My question is, if someone has sex, how long can traces of the DNA, be it sperm or whatever, remain deposited in the female? Because if Amy Ayers was sexually active (it was possible), the evidence collected from her could have theoretically been placed there days before. If that is the case, then the DNA in this case is a red herring and the original four, still strong suspects. Does anybody know how long that DNA could stay inside somebody?
 

MelmothTheLost

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Reading through this thread again after some months, it strikes me that the DNA sample taken from Amy's body could be much more extensively analysed today than even 10 years ago. Samples can now be analysed for a sort of reverse engineering, using genes to establish probabilities for a range of physical characteristics such as height, race, build, hair and eye colour, tendency to baldness etc, and thereby create a photofit or a range of photofits of the subject based on the information gleaned.
 

TXE

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It's the anniversary. 😞 Praying for these girls' families. I also pray for resolution.
 

Ibiz

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Reading about this makes me think of the unsolved Burger Chef Murders that took place in Indiana in 1978.
 

Via Marple

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Holy Moly Donut Shop laundered drug cash, feds say

Detroit — The Holy Moly Donut Shop lured cops, but for all the wrong reasons.

The popular shop, where people can customize doughnuts with candy toppings, was a front for a multi-state marijuana ring, which laundered drug money through the doughnut shop, a sham marijuana dispensary next door and a business that fills ATM machines with cash, according to federal prosecutors.

The unusual drug investigation emerged Friday when Holy Moly owner Victor Attisha and two others were indicted in federal court on drug conspiracy, money laundering and other charges...
This headline caught my eye... Thought it said Yoghurt shop!

Was there any chance that something dodgy going on with Yoghurt shop too?
 

Tuffgong

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Now that we know that DNA profiles from ancestry websites helped catch the Golden State Killer, I hope Austin LE will do the same in this case, since they have a full DNA profile from Amy's body. Any cold case that has DNA should use this new technology!

But does anybody really know where the DNA sample is from? I heard partial originally and it was some secondary strain that could not be run through CODIS. I once heard fingernail scraping, but it was unsubstantiated. Of course, Austin PD has no incentive to test it, that would be an acknowledgement that they screwed up. Now they can just do nothing and say we had them, but the judges made us turn them lose.
 

John Breden

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Idk if this has been asked already but why didn’t law enforcement ask the witnesses that saw the mystery men what they look like and made a composite sketch of them. It would help so much if there was a face or faces for the public could see. Even if the mystery men weren’t involved at least police could track the men down and ask them questions about what & who they saw that night. I mean they could still have a composite sketch made today if the witnesses are still alive. And even if the mystery men aren’t real, can’t you make a composite sketch out of DNA? Hopefully someone who is involved in this case can interview the witnesses and get a sketch made of the mystery men or get a composite sketch made with the DNA and perhaps that will produce new leads in this cold case.
 
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Hobgoblinmarket

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Idk if this has been asked already but why didn’t law enforcement ask the witnesses that saw the mystery men what they look like and made a composite sketch of them. It would help so much if there was a face or faces for the public could see. Even if the mystery men weren’t involved at least police could track the men down and ask them questions about what & who they saw that night. I mean they could still have a composite sketch made today if the witnesses are still alive. Hopefully someone who is involved in this case can interview the witnesses and get a sketch made of the mystery men and perhaps that will produce new leads in this cold case.
Honestly because ive heard some rumors of police involvement. The clearing out of the firefighters. Etc.
 

John Breden

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Honestly because ive heard some rumors of police involvement. The clearing out of the firefighters. Etc.
I never herd about that before, but it makes sense. It Seems like the cops investigation into these murders were sketchy. But hopefully since so much time has passed that there’s new detectives and people in charge now that can look back into this case.
 
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jbirner

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This investigation was flawed from the beginning. I'm not LE but I would think it a priority to identify and speak with the last two people that were in the shop. Especially since they were described as acting suspicious. It seems they were focused more on the four suspects and less on the actual evidence, at least the detectives who took over from the original detectives.
 
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