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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There and back again: Mecca Harris' days revolved around her trips from Aspen Street to the stables she loved.
"It took her about six months," says White. "She won the horse over."

Mecca fed and groomed the mare, spent hours standing by its side, speaking gently into its ear. "Patience," says Russell Neugent, a member of the Black Cowboys and a former Philadelphia mounted patrol cop. "That's what it takes to win a horse, and she had it."

The Cowboys also helped her develop an athlete's physical courage.

"They don't baby you there," says 22-year-old Samantha Lyons, who also rode at the stable. "If a kid fell off a horse, they were supposed to buy everyone else a juice."

Mecca adapted so well to tough cowboy love that Sealve White recruited Lyons and her sister to soften the little girl. But when Samantha and Stephanie Lyons arrived at the stables on a dark winter night in 1998, they didn't see a girl.

"It's all boys," said Stephanie, disappointed.

Then a high voice peeped out at them. "I'm here," said Mecca, her braids hidden by a snowcap, her body buried beneath a bulky parka. "I'm a girl!"

"She looked like a tomboy," remembers Stephanie. "A cute little tomboy."

A tomboy who was about to grow up.


>Lezlie Hiner spotted Mecca a couple of times on her pony before she asked if the 11-year-old might come to her stables.

Hiner had been running the Work to Ride program, a nonprofit that teaches city kids horsemanship, searching city streets for candidates like Mecca.

"She was pretty good when she got here," Hiner says of Mecca. "Kids that learn to ride on the streets of Philadelphia are rough-and-tumble. She could stay on a horse. She just didn't have the formal education."

Hiner brought her to the Chamounix Equestrian Center in Fairmount Park in 2001, teaching her to manage the elegant turns of dressage, jumps popular at horse shows, and the more combative skills of polo.

Hiner has numerous videos featuring Mecca and her teammates-kids from the inner city playing the sport of kings. One tape shows their matches against Yale and the University of Connecticut. Hiner's all-black Work to Ride team rides in white uniforms, shirts untucked, against all-white teams in perfect pressed black vests.

On the tapes, Mecca plays forward-a speck on a sea of horseflesh. Hiner's voice provides narration as she hollers instructions. Some players require constant coaching: "You're not listening, Kareem!" But Mecca receives only encouragement. "Keep pushing," Hiner calls to her. "Stay with her!" Mecca is always where she's supposed to be.

When the more experienced riders wanted to put Stephanie Lyons on a horse that was likely to throw her, Mecca played the responsible adult. "Don't you give her that horse," she'd say. "That's a crazy horse."

The littlest trooper: Horses toughened Harris, who outworked most

When Hiner needed work done around the stables, the boys often resisted. But Mecca shamed them into action. They complied in part because Mecca was one of them-a tough kid from a bad neighborhood-and she carried herself with confidence. When the polo team went to Yale, Mecca took the kids on a tour of the locker room.

"Yeah," she said, unfazed by the world-class facilities. "These are our lockers."

"I never would've thought to ask about her home life," says fellow rider Richard Prather. "There was no evidence of any problems in how she behaved. She did well in school. She showed up to ride. She almost always had a smile on her face."

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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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