Steven Alfred Harris (1949-1988)

Photo SAH Courtesy of Find A Grave member Beth Crowe (#47484017)

Photo Courtesy of Find A Grave member Beth Crowe (#47484017)

On August 24, 1988, Steven Alfred Harris, Sr. “was found on Olio Road in Hamilton county near Geist Reservoir, Indiana. The Harris’ had been fishing and someone shot the elder Harris as they were walking back to their car.”

This information comes from the website of the Indiana State Police (ISP). I have several problems with this page.

First, they list the victim’s name as Stephen. On his grave is says “Steven.”

Second, if you state Harris’  I assume there is more than one Harris. This could mean that Steven Alfred Harris, Sr. was in the company of his son, Steven Alfred Harris, Jr. This is likely the case as ISP says “someone shot the elder Harris.” But the circumstances of the case are not clearly worded.

How did the younger Harris get help for his father? Who found Steven dead? Who else was there? Was their fishing gear found near the victim? Any signs of robbery? Any other trauma to the victim? What was the son able to tell the authorities?

Three, there is no picture of Steven Alfred Harris, Sr. on the ISP website. It is easy to find though. You can upload it from this page. The photographer indicates that you may use her work. She even tells you how to write the picture credits. In fact, the victim is her uncle. I have tried to contact her. If successful I will update this post.

You may find the above remarks petty but I am a victim’s advocate. If we have a picture, let’s use it. It helps to trigger people’s memories. Clear reporting prevents confusion over details.

This case is unsolved. It hardly has a web presence. The victim needs all the help we can get. That is why Steven Alfred Harris’s case is the Case of the Month for July.

What do we know?

death certificate 500Check this death certificate, see picture on the right (click to enlarge). The informant is the one who contacted the authorities. Did he just make the call or did he also went fishing with the victim?

This is interesting because the ISP website gives you the impression the victim was in the company of only his son. If only the teenage son was with Harris how did the teen get to his uncle? Did he already have a driver’s licence? Was the uncle with them? Read on below because there’s a twist here.

Our victim, Steven Alfred Harris, was the only child of Kenneth Harris (1907-1980). Kenneth had only one spouse: Cecile Bell “Pat” Hines Harris (1907 – 2010). She is our victim’s mother.

After reading this I asked myself: who is Jerry Harris? How are they related as brothers if Kenneth Harris only had one child with Cecile? Is Jerry a half-sibling?

Now add these details from the Anderson Herald Bulletin from Tuesday September 13, 1988: “The victim was accompanied by 16-year-old stepson who lived with Harris and his ex-wife.”

In 1988, our victim’s biological son Steven Harris was 20 years old. He cannot be the teen mentioned in the paper as he was older and not a stepson. He is also not the brother called Jerry as mentioned on the death certificate. Again, who exactly accompanied our victim that night? His biological son, his stepson, maybe his brother? Is this just sloppy reporting or do we just not know the exact details? The family lines are not clear. This matters because police do not have a motive for this shooting. What if Steven was not the intended victim?

Shots and Motive

Around 950pm, someone shot our victim five times: three times in the back and once on each side of the torso. The shots in the back are of course a cowardly act. However, they also support what I said before. As the killer saw men from the back he may have mistaken one for the other.

This narrative comes from the above mentioned paper: “An unknown person walked up behind him and shot him,” Indiana State Police Detective Jim Rhinebarger said. “As soon as the stepson heard the first shot, he ran, but we don’t believe he was being fired at.”

Rhinebarger said the man was shot from a distance less than IO feet. The stepson described the killer as a black man with big shoulders. He was wearing a cap and dark clothing.”

Ten feet (approx. 3 meters) is pretty close. A mistaken identity is still possible because at 950pm, it was dark. How well-lit was the area?

Light also plays a role in the attacker’s description. In darkness dark clothing remains unspecified. It could also mean that the man was not really broad-shouldered but was wearing padding in his clothes. Following from this we cannot be sure that the man was black as he wore a cap in darkness. We need to know how well-lit this area was between 940-10pm.

Family information

Cecile Bell “Pat” Hines Harris (1907 – 2010) married twice. The first husband was Samuel W Daugherty, Sr (1905 – 1975). He is the man in Cecile’s photograph on the Find-a-Grave page. With Samuel, Cecile had four children: Wilma June Daugherty Fletcher (1926 – 1997), Samuel W Daugherty (1929 – 1998), Paul Lyndell Daugherty (1931 – 2010), and Dolores Nell Daugherty Brown (1935 – 2003). Dolores is the mother of the woman I emailed.

Cecile’s second husband was Kenneth Harris (1907 – 1980) with whom she had Steven (1949-1988).

Cecile survived almost all her children. Paul passed away shortly after his mother.

The victim had one son with his status listed as divorced. I saw no information about the ex-wife. But as mentioned before, apparently there is a stepson. I am not sure how they are all related. I wish there was more clarity in this case.

Contact information

If you have any information about the questions I raised here please contact me so we can add to this post. I am particularly interested in the correct family tree. Of course, any memories you wish to share about Steven are welcome. He hardly has a web presence and as you can see, what is online is not complete.

If you have any information about this case, please contact the Indiana State Police’s District Investigative Commander at 1-317-899-8577 or 1-800-582-8440. Steven’s Case Number is 51-5113.

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In the series “Case of the Month” I highlight old cold cases. These posts are not an in-depth analysis. Often more information is online or in newspaper archives. The goal of these posts is to get the cases back in the spotlights, to get people talking again, and if anything to make sure that we do not forget the victims. Just because their cases are cold does not mean that we can forget about them.

If you have any thoughts about the case of Steven Alfred Harris I encourage you to post them on your social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, etc.) Every time that we mention Steven online we enhance his digital footprint. We must make sure that he keeps his web presence if we ever wish to find answers in his case. You can help by linking to or sharing this post.

Thank you for remembering Steven Alfred Harris with us.

Resources

Indiana State Police

Find a Grave