Two years later city cops are releasing new information to help solve the murder of a little girl.
Mecca seemed destined for a wonderful life. And in the wake of her death, memories of her athletic exploits take on a near mythical quality.
Sealve White recalls her making a one-handed catch during a pickup football game-a story that grows more dramatic with each retelling. First she catches the pass "down the block," then she snags it from 75 yards away, and finally 125 yards. What White lacks in historical accuracy he makes up for in nostalgia, recalling a version of events that gives a dead little girl her due.
Similarly, it's been reported in the Inquirer, the Daily News and Sports Illustrated that shortly before her death Mecca was offered a $32,000 polo scholarship from the Thacher School in Ojai, Calif. School spokes-person Bill McMahon says they never picked up the phone to correct the story because Mecca Harris was exactly the kind of girl they want in their program. But no scholarship offer was ever made.
Hiner says she received application materials from the Thacher School in January 2003 and gave them to the Harris family, who never filled them out. California was too far away, Mecca and her mother too close.
|Urban cowboys: Pat Wright and Sealve White (above) first taught then-8-year-old Mecca how to ride.|
If she had applied, her acceptance would've put her in California that fall. When Oct. 14, 2003, rolled around, Mecca Harris would've completed her journey-from a world of hard streets, poverty and drug dealing to one of privilege, polo matches and fields of lush green grass.
Two years later the murder of Mecca Harris sits in a kind of netherworld, as police detective Chuck Boyle awaits more proof. "We've developed all kinds of information," he says. "But what good does it do me sitting in a box? It's time to open this thing up and put it all out there. I'm sure there are people who know something, people who can help us."
Boyle believes 29-year-old Daryl Bynum was the target. Bynum dealt pot and crack for his brother and had recently won $5,000 gambling.
On the night of her death, Mecca returned from the Work to Ride stables early in the evening and rode her bike around the neighborhood. An uneaten platter of Chinese food suggests she and her family were probably just sitting down to dinner when two or three men showed up.
The gunmen marched all three victims downstairs to the basement, where each died from a single gunshot to the head. The arrangement of the bodies, one on top of the other, indicates Daryl Bynum, at the bottom of the pile, was killed first.
The triggerman then shot 43-year-old Sheila Harris, who fell sideways, her head landing on her boyfriend's chest.
Mecca fell last. Her body landed on its side and slumped against her mother's, the two of them nestled like consecutive right parentheses-)).
Boyle says it's unusual for a murdered body to retain any facial expression because violent deaths occur so suddenly that few victims have time to process emotion.
"The man who killed Mecca Harris is evil," says Boyle. "Simple as that. To do that to a child."
Police believe one man did the shooting. They won't release his name because it might jeopardize their case. They will say their leading suspect is currently serving a 75-to-150-year sentence for a string of robberies he committed.
Neither the police nor Harris' relatives take any comfort knowing the shooter will probably die in jail. They want him convicted for these murders. In addition, police say one or two other men were involved.
Boyle hopes the public will help police find two people seen with the shooter in the days after the murders. In one instance they have a pair of possible first names, "Raheem" or "Kareem." The other suspect should be easier to find. His unusual nickname "Holy Moley" stems from a crucial identifying characteristic-a face covered with moles.
Boyle has a message for each of these men and anyone else involved in Mecca Harris' murder: "If you thought this was just gonna be a robbery," says Boyle, "and you didn't think anyone was going to get killed, we can work with that. Come in and tell us your story."