Overview of Sarah Harbison
15-year old Sarah Harbison was only a freshman in high school.
Sarah Harbison was a daughter, sister, and friend. Sarah adored animals and playing sports. She was a member of the Future Farmer of America Association, a student council member as well as a cheerleader. Sarah was known for being full of energy, enthusiasm, and being a leader.
On December 6, 1991, Sarah had a regular day of school.
She came home and made a plan with her mom about what they would do that evening. They agreed that her sister, Jennifer would take Sarah and her friend, Amy Ayers to the mall. Sarah and Amy also had plans for Amy to sleep over that evening. While Amy and Sarah were at the mall, Sarah’s sister, Jennifer was working down the road at I Can’t Believe its Yogurt. During Jennifer’s break, the two girls would be picked up and would help Jennifer, and her co-worker Eliza Thomas, close the shop.
However, at 10:40 pm, the last customers of the evening came into the yogurt shop. They ordered their desserts by 10:42 pm and left but noticed two of them acting oddly. The shop closed at 11:00 pm, and the no-sale button was pressed at 11:03 pm. By 11:48, a rookie police officer Troy Gay received a call about the fire at the Yogurt Shop. As fire crews assembled to put out the fire they would notice the bodies of four young women still inside: Jennifer Harbison, Sarah Harbison, Eliza Thomas and Amy Ayers.
It would be quickly determined by police that more than one assailant was involved. Three of the four girls would be discovered stacked on top of each other and an accelerant was used. Eliza followed by Sarah and then Jennifer. While Amy would be discovered near the prep area of the store. All four victims were severely burned. Sarah’s hands were found tied behind her with underwear; she had also been gagged. There was also evidence of sexual assault as an ice cream scooper was found between her legs. She was also shot in the head with a .22 caliber gun to the back of the head.
Police were quick to determine that more than one perpetrator likely committed the crime.
Despite multiple arrests, convictions, and exonerations over the years, the case remains unsolved. This case rattled the local Austin Community at the time and continues to this day. Many are hopeful that DNA could reveal the identity of the individual(s) responsible for the murders of these girls. This case is the inspiration behind the Homicides Victims Families Rights Act, which aims to provide families with a full reinvestigation of a cold case including forensic testing with today’s standards.