In the summer of 1998, 12-year-old Anthony Harris, a black boy, was charged and later convicted of murdering his 5-year-old white neighbor, Devan Duniver.
Harris is now free, but an exclusive interview that he did with ABC News’ “20/20” last week now has people talking. The broadcast aired on Friday (May 6) and as more people become familiar with his story, it shows that more than 20 years later there are still major issues with our criminal justice system.
During the interview, Harris said, “The girl’s dead, my life has been destroyed, and this guy, this individual’s still free right now.”
Harris claimed that when Duniver went missing, there were leads in her case that were never investigated.
On June 27, 1998, residents of the New Philadelphia, Ohio neighborhood came together to locate the 5-year-old. She went missing after going outside to play. Her mother, Lori, called the police after discovering her child had vanished.
At the time, Harris and his family lived in the same area and joined in on the search, along with hundreds of others.
Devan’s lifeless body was discovered the following day in a wooded area behind her home with multiple stab wounds to her neck.
Detectives working the case said Harris gave inconsistent stories during his investigation. They added that the teen’s story changed when asked where he was and what he was doing at the time of her disappearance.
Two weeks after Devan’s death, Harris and his mother Cyndi were called to their local police station for interrogation with Thomas Vaughn, the police chief of nearby town Millersburg. Reports claim that the situation was hostile and ended with officials getting a murder confession from the 12-year-old.
“The investigator, he had basically told me that, ‘If you confess to this murder you can go home.’ It’s like, ‘Okay. Well, I’m over here scared, so I want to go home,'” Harris said.
Harris’ attorney Tarin Hale told “20/20,” “My statement was very clear, there is no evidence in this case. That’s all you need to know from me. There’s no evidence here,” as she spoke about her client’s trial.
Juvenile and Probate Court Judge Linda Kate found Harris guilty of the crime in 1999 and gave him a maximum sentence of incarceration until he turned 21.
Harris’ conviction was overturned by the Ohio 5th District Court of Appeals on June 7, 2000, after it was determined that his confession was coerced.
The murder of Devan Duniver remains unsolved.