At 12, he was forced to falsely confess to killing a little girl. The real killer is yet to be apprehended

Francis Akhalbey May 09, 2022
At 12 years old, Anthony Harris was coerced into confessing to killing a 5-year-old girl -- Photo Credit: ABC News

Anthony Harris, a former Marine, was 12 years old when he was coerced into falsely confessing to killing his five-year-old neighbor, who is White, in 1998. And though Harris was ultimately released in 2000 after he was convicted of Devan Duniver’s murder the year prior, the real killer is yet to face justice.

In an interview with ABC News‘ “20/20”, Harris said he has still not gotten over Duniver’s murder though his conviction was overturned over 20 years ago. He also added that Duniver’s killer still walking free has left him frustrated. The interview with the news outlet was aired on Friday.

“She was so young and she had passed away,” Harris said two years ago. “The girl’s dead, my life has been destroyed, and this guy, this individual’s still free right now.”

Residents who searched for Duniver after she was reported missing on June 27, 1998, also shared the same thoughts. Harris claimed investigators received tips that could have assisted them with the five-year-old’s murder. But they did not look into them.

Duniver was playing outside her home in New Philadelphia, Ohio, when her mother realized she was nowhere to be found. She ended up contacting the police after she was unable to trace her. The victim’s body was found in the woods with multiple stab wounds on her neck the next day, and Harris was implicated in her killing two weeks later, ABC News reported.

Investigators had initially claimed the details Harris provided about his whereabouts and what he was doing at the time the victim went missing weren’t consistent when he was interrogated. The officer who questioned Harris after he was invited to the police station with his mother was identified as Millersburg police chief Thomas Vaughn. Harris’ mother was, however, not privy to what transpired during her son’s interrogation.

Per the audio of the interrogation, Vaughn, on multiple occasions asked the then-12-year-old if he had killed Duniver. And though Harris initially denied any involvement in her killing, he said he ended up caving in to Vaughn’s pressure and falsely confessed.

“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 was ultimately convicted in a juvenile court in 1999 and received the maximum sentence. He would have been locked up until he turned 21. But he was released in 2000 after an appeals court determined he had been forced to confess.

“There’s no sense to be bitter,” Harris said. “Even though it hurt a lot, it didn’t destroy my core as a person, the things I believe in, the things I grew up to become. That’s why I don’t hold resentment in my voice when I speak.”

And though Duniver’s killer is yet to face justice, Harris said he hasn’t given up his fight to help bring the suspect to book. “We’re going to figure this out [and] give her some kind of closure,” he said.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: May 10, 2022


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