25th anniversary of Yogurt Shop Murders

December 6 marked 25 years since Austin's Yogurt Shop Murders. Detectives say the high-profile case is a big part of our history but a lot has changed since then.

"25 years is a long time, especially for the families to not have final justice," says Detective Jay Swann, Austin Police Department, Homicide Unit.

The hope is still there - making sure that after all this time, the four victims are never forgotten.

Family members spent the anniversary night at the 26th annual Tree of Angels event at Central Christian Church. They placed an ornament for their loved ones on the tree.    

"The majority of the people here have experienced that same loss and that's one of the things that brings home to me. Where in the world can you go and sit in a room of people who get it, who have been there, have received the same phone calls and been in those same legal processes. I think the fellowship that they have afterward is just as important," says event coordinator Kimberly Orts.    

They are leaning on each other for support. The Yogurt Shop Murders was a tragedy that affected the entire community.

"There's only a couple of events that have really shaped Austin's future. One was the Whitman shooting in 1966 and then the Yogurt Shop. A lot of people liken it to the JFK assassination. If you were in Austin in 1991, you remember where you were and what you were doing when you heard about the Yogurt Shop because it was just so shocking," says Detective Swann.

Candles and flowers were also left in front of where I Can't Believe It's Yogurt once stood. On December 6th, 1991 a fire broke out, when firefighters arrived, four bodies were found - sisters Sarah and Jennifer Harbison and their friends Amy Ayers and Eliza Thomas.

"That's part of the reason that we work so hard on these cold cases, because the chance for these people offending again is very high and these people can be a danger to the community," says Detective Swann.

Four men were accused of being responsible for their murders but only two were tried. Their convictions were later overturned because a mistake made by prosecutors and investigators.

APD Homicide Detective Jay Swann says they are still prime suspects.

"The confessions were ruled to be valid confessions. They were not coerced confessions and the men confessed to the crime. They told details of the crime scene, at the exact same time, 1,300 miles apart and they hadn't seen each other in ten years," says Detective Swann.

There is also DNA that could one day lead to another suspect. But, finding out who's it is and what it means has proven to be difficult.

Detective Swann hopes one day he will be able to bring this case to a close.

"That's why our job is so important, in what we do, so hopefully we can prevent the kind of suffering that has occurred in this case," says Detective Swann.

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