The Austin Chronicle

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The Never-Ending Timeline

July 17, 2009, News

Dec. 6, 1991: Four teen girls are found murdered in the back room of an I Can't Believe It's Yogurt! shop on Anderson Lane.

Dec. 10, 1991: More than 1,500 people attend the funeral for the four slain teens, Eliza Thomas, 17; sisters Sarah and Jennifer Harbison, 15 and 17; and Amy Ayers, 13.

Dec. 14, 1991: Maurice Pierce is arrested at Northcross Mall for having a .22-caliber gun and 16 bullets tucked into his pants. Former Austin Police Detective Hector Polanco questions him about the murders. Pierce allegedly tells Polanco that his friend Forrest Welborn used the gun to commit the grisly crime.

March 23, 1992: Polanco (who retired in 2001) is removed from the yogurt shop investigation; he had developed a reputation for coercing confessions from suspects.

1993-1996: Tips continue to come in, but no arrests are made. The case grows cold.

1996-1997: The investigation into the 1991 murders is reorganized under APD Detective Paul Johnson. The Pierce tip file is among those that investigators decide to revisit. Early 1999: Johnson has Pierce's .22 tested against crime scene evidence; results reveal the gun is not a match to the weapon used in the crime.

Sept. 9-14, 1999: Scott is interrogated by Austin Police over several days for a total of about 20 hours. By the end, Scott confesses to participating in the yogurt shop murders along with Springsteen, Pierce, and Welborn.

Sept. 15, 1999: Springsteen is interrogated for five hours in Charleston, W.Va., by Austin Police. By the end of the interview, Springsteen also confesses to committing the murders and to raping Ayers.

Oct. 5, 1999: Judge Mike Lynch signs arrest warrants for Springsteen, Scott, Pierce, and Welborn.

Dec. 1, 1999: Police collect hair and blood samples for DNA analysis from the four men charged with the crime.

Dec. 14, 1999: Springsteen is indicted.

Dec. 28, 1999: Scott and Pierce are indicted.

June 30, 2000: Charges against Welborn are dismissed after two grand juries fail to indict him.

May 30, 2001: Springsteen is found guilty of murdering Ayers; he is later sentenced to die for the crime.

Sept. 22, 2002: Scott is found guilty of murder; two days later he is sentenced to life in prison.

Jan. 28, 2003: Citing a lack of evidence to "convict him right now," then-District Attorney Ronnie Earle dismisses charges against Pierce, who is released after more than three years behind bars.

May 25, 2006: Springsteen's case is overturned by the Court of Criminal Appeals.

June 6, 2007: Scott's conviction is overturned; his case is sent back to Travis County for retrial.

March 2008: Prosecutors reveal that new, more precise DNA testing has revealed a previously undetected, unknown male profile found on a vaginal swab taken from Ayers. The unknown male does not match any of the original four suspects.

June 2009: Defense attorneys reveal that additional testing showed that the same unknown male profile found in Ayers' body was also found in the body of one of the Harbison sisters. Prosecutors say their DNA expert agrees with the result. Prosecutors still have not identified the male donor after testing more than 100 men – including acquaintances of the four suspects and emergency and medical examiner's office employees.

June 24, 2009: D.A. Rosemary Lehmberg announces that her office is not ready to prosecute Scott, whose retrial was set to begin July 6. Lehmberg says her office cannot prosecute without first finding the owner of the unknown male DNA. In response, Judge Lynch releases Scott and Springsteen from jail on personal bonds.

Aug. 12, 2009: Prosecutors are due back in court to update Lynch on progress finding the DNA donor. Lynch has said that if prosecutors don't come prepared with a plan to retry Scott, he will be compelled to provide one for them.

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