Two years later city cops are releasing new information to help solve the murder of a little girl.
Malette himself still can't believe it happened. "They were my routine," he says. "I saw them or talked to them on the phone every day."
|The door to nowhere: The murders happened behind this basement door, in a house abandoned ever since.|
In life and death she straddled two worlds, uniting them and revealing their deep divisions. The now-closed G and B riding stable where she got her start loomed as a kind of West Philly oasis where kids like her could escape the streets. But in the world of show horses and polo, such outfits are decried as "horse-killing stables," where untrained horsemen set their animals to galloping on cement, ruining their hooves.
In West Philly some in the Black Cowboys Association think of Lezlie Hiner as a threat-a woman with resources who seeks to adopt kids into her program like an alien colonizing the earth. "Lezlie is for Lezlie," says Russell Neugent.
Asked about Neugent, Sealve White and Pat Wright-the people who first trained Mecca Harris to love and care for horses-Lezlie Hiner doesn't even recognize their names.
What unites all these people now, across any boundaries of race and class, is their love for Mecca and their desire to see her killer caught. Black or white, rich or poor, everyone can see the beauty in Mecca Harris.
Watching video of her playing polo reveals the limitless depth of her tragedy. There she goes, sweeping down the left-hand side of the field, her mallet as long as her body, pushing the ball with a soccer player's certainty. There she is, fearlessly pushing her horse into her opponent, driving her off the ball.
The tape is all the sadder when she makes a mistake-failing to make contact with the ball or block her opponent's path-because such momentary lapses demonstrate her youth. But despite the brevity of her life, and the certainty of her death, Mecca Harris remains somehow vital-alive in spite of the sorry facts.
John Fields, a 13-year-old kid who lived around the corner from Mecca, intends to apply to the Thacher School in the hope of receiving the scholarship and the experience his friend never did. The two were close, spending lots of time at each other's houses, playing video games and goofing around. He says they never spoke about Mecca's opportunity to go to Thacher.
"We were just hanging out," he explains. "We were young, having fun." But even in his youth he appreciates the symbolism of his attempt to follow the path she illuminated.
"That's part of why I want to go," he says. "Mecca."
"I'll let him go in a second," says his mother Sarah. "Sure, I'll miss him. But that opportunity is too great-to meet different kinds of people, to see another part of the world."
It's a testament to Mecca Harris that in 14 years she impacted the world so strongly that her spirit lives on. It's a sad fact that her life's journey culminated at her funeral, when hundreds of people filled the streets near her house and marched on foot and on horseback to Baring Street's Metropolitan Baptist Church.
TV news cameras dutifully recorded the proceedings. And Det. Boyle says the police who attended all agreed: They'd never seen anything quite like it, such a spectacular funeral for a little girl.
Mecca's body was arrayed in a white coffin and pulled by a horse-drawn carriage. Beuda, the horse she rode in polo matches, followed with Mecca's boots on backward in the stirrups.
The little girl's transformation into a princess was complete. Her elevation into the realm of fairy tale and myth had crystallized. And now her loved ones sit and wait, wondering if her killer will ever be brought to justice, and lingering over memories of the girl who seemed certain to escape the streets she grew up on.
Steve Volk (firstname.lastname@example.org) last wrote about Doc Watson's preparing to open under new ownership.
PW's Holiday Guide 2014
PW's Taste of Philly 2014
Election Day 2014: Tues., Nov. 4