SAN ANGELO, Texas — December of 2021 marked 30 years since the tragic deaths of four young girls out of Austin when a local yogurt shop was robbed and then set on fire.
Warning this post contains graphic contents
On December 6, 1991, first responders were called to the scene of a structure fire inside an I Can’t Believe It’s Yogurt! shop in Austin, Texas. Upon investigation behind the cause of the fire, they were met with a horrific scene that still haunts the city to this day.
Piled on the floor of the yogurt shop were the charred, nude bodies of four young girls, Amy Ayers, Eliza Thomas, Sarah Harbison and Jennifer Harbison ranging between the ages of 13 to 17 years old.
Jennifer and Eliza had been working at the yogurt shop when Jennifer’s younger sisters Sarah and her friend Amy arrived at the shop shortly before closing. All four girls were found having been gagged, tied up and shot before their bodies had been piled upon one another and set on fire.
Reports from the following investigations said that the fire that spread through the rest of the building had been so intense and destructive that it had burned away a majority of what could have been potential evidence however a few of the victims showed signs of having been raped and the Austin Police Department has DNA from an unknown male as a result of one of the rapes.
Further investigation found Amy’s body in a separate part of the building with a “sock-like cloth” around her neck and two bullet wounds to the head. Investigators gathered that she had survived the initial gunshot which had missed her brain and managed to drag herself to another part of the building where she had been shot again.
Several suspects have been called into question over the years and some had even been arrested and convicted in relation to the case. These men were Robert Springsteen, Michael Scott, Maurice Pierce and Forrest Welborn.
Springsteen and Scott each confessed to the murders and were sentenced to life in prison however in 2007-2006 both convictions were overturned noting constitutional violations found in both confessions. In 2009 advanced DNA testing was able to utilize the DNA recovered from the night of the murder and found the profile did not match any of the four suspects.
The DNA sample did lead to a match in the database however the Federal Bureau of Investigation denied the release of the evidence to the Austin Police Department citing a federal statute that protects anonymous donors.
The DNA sample itself also only presented partial markers which was not enough genetic material to incriminate. Advancements in DNA technology have been pulling more and more information from the sample and it is hoped that it will soon bring to light the suspect and finally bring the young girls and their families the justice they deserve.
If you have any information related to the case, please contact the Austin Police Department Homicide tip line at 512-477-3588 or Crime Stoppers at 512-472-TIPS.