Wednesday 8th August, 2007

 

Trini guilty of killing Nevada beauty queen

 
 
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David Winfield Mitchell, 62, listens to the closing arguments from the prosecution in Carson City District Court in Nevada, USA, on Monday. Yesterday, the Trinidadian man was found guilty of murdering a teenage American beauty queen 25 years ago.
Photo courtesy The Nevada Appeal

  • David Winfield Mitchell is found guilty of the beating, rape and strangulation killing of Sheila Jo Harris, teenage beauty queen, at an apartmentment complex where he worked as a handyman, 25 years ago.

A TRINIDADIAN has been found guilty in the United States of murdering a beauty queen, 25 years after the teenage girl was strangled.

David Winfield Mitchell, 62, showed no reaction when the jury announced its verdict in the Carson City District Court, in Nevada, yesterday.

The jury took five hours of deliberation to find Mitchell guilty of first-degree murder—the beating, rape and strangulation killing of Sheila Jo Harris, an 18-year-old former Miss Douglas County who had her sights set on competing for the title of Miss Carson City.

Harris’ body was discovered January 6, 1982, by her mother and a family friend in a Lompa Lane apartment that she had moved into just five days before.

Mitchell, the grounds-keeper at the apartment complex where Harris lived, was a suspect from the start.

But charges filed against him in 1986 were eventually dropped for lack of evidence.

Four years later, DNA comparison resulted in a match between evidence (semen) found on Harris’ body and clothing and samples of saliva and blood obtained from Mitchell by warrant in the 1980s.

By then, however, Mitchell had fled. He and his ex-wife had moved to New York. They were eventually deported to Trinidad, however, after being accused of being in the country illegally.

Arrested in Trinidad

In January 2005, police found Mitchell to be living in Champs Fleurs and employed as a nightwatchman with the Ministry of Works.

Interpol arrested him in August last year, and the following month Chief Magistrate Sherman Mc Nicolls ordered Mitchell be extradited to the US.

After a one-week trial, jury deliberation began on Monday at 6 pm and ended at 9 pm, with jurors saying they had a verdict but wanted to sleep on it.

Returning yesterday at 9 am, the jury wrapped up its debate at about 11 am and the verdict was read at 11.30 am.

Mitchell is not expected to face the death penalty, Norton said.

This morning, following statements from Harris’ family and a California woman who Mitchell was convicted of assaulting in 1979, the jury will decide his sentence.

He faces two possible sentences—life in prison without parole or life in prison with parole after ten years.

“Because a deadly weapon was used in the commission of the crime, his penalty will likely automatically double to life with parole after 20 years,” Norton said..

— With assistance from the Nevada Appeal

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