ST. LUCIE COUNTY (WFLA) — A former Florida deputy was named “the only probable suspect” in the 1983 cold case killing of an 11-year-old girl, according to a Thursday release from the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office.
The report named former deputy James Howard Harrison as the only probable suspect in the abduction, sexual assault and murder of 11-year-old Lora Ann Huizar on Nov. 6, 1983, in St. Lucie County. Harrison was a deputy for the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office at the time.
Original witness reports said a uniformed patrol deputy, later confirmed to be Harrison, saw Huizar walking toward her home around the time of her disappearance. Three days later, Huizar’s body was found nearby.
Deputies said both locations were within the boundaries of Harrison’s assigned patrol zone. Detectives originally assigned to the case were unable to link Harrison to the crime or identify any viable suspects at that time.
Years after Harrison’s death in 2008, a DNA lab recovered unknown male DNA from Huizar’s sexual assault kit. In response to the new evidence, cold case detectives exhumed Harrison’s body, but a comparison was not possible due to the DNA’s degradation, the report said.
Those familiar with the original investigation told investigators Harrison had instructed two witnesses to leave the scene roughly 20 minutes before additional law enforcement arrived. Detectives also learned the location and position of the victim’s body differed from initial witness accounts.
Deputies said they established probable cause that Harrison later altered the crime scene by placing the victim in a drainage ditch in an attempt to destroy physical evidence.
Taylor said his motivation for the investigation came from a dream involving his son, who died by suicide years earlier. In his dream, Taylor’s son supposedly said “Pappy, I found her.” While Taylor continued to dream, he said he turned and saw Huizar standing nearby.
“She just looked at me and said one sentence to me — she said ‘Keep digging.’ Then I woke up,” Taylor said.
“The day I solved this case was both the worst and the best day of my 30-year career in law enforcement,” said Detective Paul Taylor, cold case detective for the St. Lucie County Sherriff’s Office. “Nobody dislikes a bad cop more than a good cop, and it felt bittersweet to finally provide the victim’s family with some long awaited answers.”
The now-deceased deputy had worked for 10 separate law enforcement agencies in Florida since the 1960s including at the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office. Throughout his service, deputies said Harrison “exhibited a pattern of inappropriate behavior involving juvenile females.”
The sheriff’s office is unable to pursue charges against Harrison due to his death.
If you have any information regarding Harrison or his possible involvement in this or any other criminal investigation, you may contact the St. Lucie County Criminal Investigation Division at 772-462-3230.
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