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Vigil marks four years in unsolved Harris murder case

Dora Harris spent the fourth anniversary of her son’s death praying for justice.

Joined by friends, family and law enforcement, she held a vigil to ask for help and guidance in her son’s case.

“We met there at the family church,” said Crenshaw County Sheriff Mickey Powell. “It was a touching ceremony, with several words of prayer and several songs sung by individuals.”

The vigils at New Hope (Valley) Missionary Baptist Church have become an annual event and Rosa Carroll has attended each one.

“I came to support the family and encourage them,” Carroll said. “There is hope. It might not look good, sound good, smell good or feel good, but it all works for their good.”

Each vigil Dora holds, she prays will be the last one needed.

But, in the four years since DeLange Harris was killed, questions regarding his death remain unanswered.

On May 3, 2011, DeLange was found lying dead in a ditch on Athens Church Road near Glenwood, he had been shot, the victim of an apparent homicide.

DeLange’s pastor at the time of his death, Willie O. Edwards of Star of Hope Missionary Baptist Church, suggested holding the vigil a few years ago.

“We’re praying for the Lord to help us,” he said. “As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ I just hope somebody will come forward and bring some closure.”

Dora shares the same hope. Living in a county where her son was killed has taken its toll. Whenever she meets someone, she finds herself wondering if he knows something about the case.

Dora has found a new hope in the interest the case has received in the last year.

Attorney General Luther Strange appointed special investigators and helped to get the reward increased to $15,000.

“It is important that the people of Crenshaw County, and any others who may have information, know about this reward,” said Strange. “We urge them, and anyone who has information or possible evidence about a cold case, to come forward and notify the proper authorities. Working together, we have a much greater opportunity to deliver justice for victims who have waited for too long.”

“The Attorney General assigned one of his Cold Case Special Agents to this case earlier this year. Since that time the Attorney General’s office and the Crenshaw County Sheriff’s Office have been working to solve this case,” said District Attorney Tesmer.

The National Institute of Justice—Solving Cold Cases grant was provided by the U.S. Department of Justice to start the Attorney General’s Cold Case Unit in 2008. The Cold Case Unit targets unsolved or unresolved violent sexually motivated assaults and homicides in which probative DNA exists.

Powell’s involvement in the case has also helped.

“With a case this old, you kind of have to start again,” Powell said. “Everybody has to start over, start back and interview different folks. We are working hard on it. It’s a slow go, but we are making headway.”

There is a $15,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of DeLange’s killer. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Crenshaw County Sheriff’s Office at 334-335-6568 or the Attorney General’s Office at 1-866-419-1236.