Who Killed Mecca Harris?

Two years later city cops are releasing new information to help solve the murder of a little girl.

By Steve Volk
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 7 | Posted Dec. 14, 2005

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Det. Chuck Boyle strides across the office carrying a cardboard box. He closes the door to the interview room, sits down and starts rifling through crime-scene photos: snapshots of Daryl Bynum, his girlfriend Sheila Harris and her daughter Mecca.

"Usually, on a case like this," he says, "we'd at least be getting some jailhouse talk. But not this time. There's nothing."

Boyle, a chain-smoker who inhales as if he's trying to pull a pingpong ball through a garden hose, curls his lips in disgust. "We know who did this," he says. "We're as certain as we can be without having made an arrest. We just don't have enough yet to ensure a conviction."

Being so close to solving a triple murder that includes a child victim sits somewhere near the center of homicide detective hell. So the box remains in Boyle's thoughts. He hopes one day to heft it to the desk of a city prosecutor who will pull the lid off and let it speak.

Since Oct. 14, 2003, when the murders took place, Boyle and his partner Jeff Piree have filled the box with interview transcripts-94 files totaling some 30 pounds. The pair even sat down with their chief suspect.

But instead of confessing to what he'd done or betraying some sense of remorse, the killer laughed. Homicide detective hell got a little hotter.

Cops are famous for losing their cynicism in the face of a child victim. And Boyle can tell from looking at how the bodies fell that 14-year-old Mecca Liles-Harris, the youngest victim in this triple homicide, was shot last.

The information forces Boyle, a tall man with a thin, sad face, inside his own imagination. "No one can tell me," he says, "what must have gone through this little girl's mind. No doctor. No psychologist. No lawyer. Imagine the terror. She sees her mother's boyfriend shot. She sees her mother murdered. And then she sees that gun swinging up to her, and she knows she's next. Try to imagine that. Try. You can't."

But Boyle can do one thing.

He can open the box.

The Philadelphia Police Department authorized him to do exactly that in the hope that showing the public what's inside might awaken a stalled investigation.


On old videos Mecca Harris remains a small, sprightly wonder, 90 pounds of determination controlling a thousand-pound horse.

"Mecca had no fear" is a common refrain, a mourner's chorus for a girl who played basketball and football with the boys, who took boxing lessons and rode horses like she was born in the wild West.

But the wild West Mecca Harris hailed from was West Phila-delphia, where she grew up at 42nd and Aspen, raised by a single mother who worked as a nurse's aide.

Most adults remember her as quiet and sweet. Kids and close relatives recall a different girl-a funny kid who gave as good as she got, whose life took shape when she started attending the nearby G and B Riding Academy, which in the fall of 1997 sat on North Brooklyn Street, around the corner from her home.

"She was waiting to be let in when someone arrived to give the horses their morning feed," remembers Pat Wright, who volunteered at the stable. "She'd go to school, come back and stay until we closed. She'd be the last to leave. Summer. Winter. Didn't make no difference."

"She showed me how to close that big barn door," says Sealve White. "I didn't usually close up. But she'd seen it done before. So she started dragging this big metal bar to lever the door shut."

Mecca Harris had fallen under the spell of the Black Cowboys Association, a Philadelphia institution that offers kids in the city's toughest neighborhoods the chance to claim a path out of the 'hood on horseback. They started Mecca off on a pony named Sapphire, but she soon graduated to Coco, a horse no one else could ride.

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COMMENTS

Comments 1 - 7 of 7
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1. Mrs. Yvonne Fields-Woodson said... on Jan 5, 2012 at 02:41AM

“As I write, I cry because I knew Mecca , Sheila and Fee-Fee back in 1990 when Mecca when was a charming 1 year old and Fee-Fee was a stunningly sweet going- on teenager. I had a daughter named Deloris and a new baby named Christopher with red hair. We shared friends like Stacey and her daughter Syreeta and Corrine and her kids as well as Wendy and her 2 daughters. We all shared a residence at 40th and Lancaster for about 2 years caring for each others kids like they were our own I loved all these women Shirley, Latavia because there we were family. Sheila and Shirley were like my big sisters (I'm an only child) Shirley taught me southern cooking secrets and how to be happy and Sheila taught me how to live thru all lifes bs. Sheila loves "Chookie looc" and her "Fee-Fee" because she told me one night in her room she knew her Princesses would be Great Queens one day and God answered her prayers and gave her that strong queens so I see Sheila and Mecca smiling cause nothing hurts no more I”

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2. Anonymous said... on Jan 16, 2012 at 06:03AM

“Mecca and family r.i.p it's ur dear friend I miss u and you will never be forgotten. One love”

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3. Callie Phillips said... on Jan 8, 2013 at 06:31AM

“We went to school together ... We rode horses together , We played basketball and football together she was like a Cousin to my family mecca and my grandpa was so close ...I remember this day like no other I was only 13 years old and cryed until there was no more tears left...Rip Mecca I live my life through my childhood friends that were lost in west Philadelphia gone but not forgotten”

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4. robert benn said... on Mar 22, 2013 at 01:22AM

“My cousin was Darrell bynum he was a good man despite his street life.... everyday I ask that the 3 souls that was sent back to heaven is in gods grace”

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5. Anonymous said... on Apr 28, 2013 at 08:31AM

“Darrell aka Brother was a pervert/asshole.
His day was coming!!! Rest in hell.”

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6. Cynquetta b. said... on May 31, 2013 at 10:07PM

“Never and I mean never was my uncle anything but sweet. No matter what lifestyle he may have lived, nobody deserved to be murdered! Those who feel that way should look in the mirror. I lived with all 3 and I loved them all! Until we meet again ?✌”

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7. Anonymous said... on Oct 16, 2013 at 09:52PM

“How disgusting for this Neugent person to badmouth Hiner, whom he doesn't even know, when she has devoted her life to helping children. Shame on him and any others as indicated by the author in this "Black Cowboys Assoc.". They better clean up their act and stop acting like prejudiced bigots. If they were angels who taught children to ride, that's good. But they should not begrudge other angels merely because of their skin color. Something is VERY wrong there...

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