Two years later city cops are releasing new information to help solve the murder of a little girl.
He crept down one step. Then another. Fee waited for him in the kitchen. Then he saw Daryl Bynum's body. He started crying right there on the steps.
"They were my peoples," says Malette. "Sheila was like my mother. People talk about being selfish. She was selfless."
Two years later, at 27 years old, both Harris and Malette find it difficult to move on with their lives. They need resolution. To keep the family's memory alive, they mark the anniversary of Mecca's birthday with a memorial.
This past summer they held a cookout on Aspen Street, in front of the boarded-up windows where the bodies were found. Friends and family gathered, but none of the neighbors.
"They're scared," says Malette. "And I don't blame them."
The execution-style killings initially bore the markings of a ruthless drug organization. Such fear is a hallmark of life in West Philadelphia's more poverty-stricken corridors.
Malette and Harris still move with caution. They agreed to have their pictures taken for this story, then asked that the photographs not appear.
But living among the fear prevalent in a neighborhood known as the Bottom wasn't enough to encourage Sheila Harris to ship Mecca to California.
"Mecca didn't want to be so far away," says Fee Harris.
"Sheila didn't want her baby to leave," says her father Andrew Harris. "California's a long way away."
In hindsight, she should've filled out Mecca's application to the Thacher School and sent it Federal Express. Daryl Bynum should've been kicked to the curb.
Some say they counseled Sheila Harris against dating him, a drug dealer 14 years her junior. But neither his criminal activity nor the age discrepancy could convince her to leave him. "I told her she should move on," remembers her friend Pat Wright. "But she was in love with him. She said he was her soulmate."
Friends, relatives and the police say Sheila Harris can't shoulder the blame for murder. She raised good daughters.
Mecca had a world of opportunity in front of her. Though she didn't apply for the polo scholarship, she'd started as a freshman at the W.B. Saul High School for Agricultural Sciences and hoped to become a veterinarian. Fee Harris is a corrections officer, training to be a deputy sheriff.
By all accounts, Sheila Harris tracked her daughter's comings and goings, and monitored the people she hung out with more than most of the mothers whose kids haunted the stables in West Philly and Fairmount Park. Police and relatives say she labored to keep her boyfriend's dealing out of her home life.
They also say Bynum was "soft," not the thug we imagine when we read the words drug dealer. "Daryl Bynum was the kind of guy that, if his brother hadn't been dealing drugs, he'd be working in a restaurant or in maintenance or something," says Det. Boyle. "I don't make light of it because I know what a scourge drugs are on the community. But he had no history of violence."
If any lessons can be drawn from this, it's that just as proximity to water during a thunderstorm can provoke a lightning strike, any involvement with drug dealers can lead to death. And in the Bottom, it's always raining. Even on girls like Mecca Harris.
Today Fee Harris breaks down at random times.
"We can be driving in the car somewhere," says Malette, "just doing whatever, and all of a sudden she's crying."
PW's Summer Guide 2014