Watch CBS News

Who Killed These Girls?

On Dec. 6, 1991, just before midnight, an Austin, Texas, police officer reported a fire at a yogurt shop on the north side of town.

Inside authorities found the burned bodies of four teen-age girls: Eliza Thomas and Jennifer Harbison, both 17, who were store employees; Sarah Harbison, Jennifer's younger sister, 15; and Amy Ayers, 13, who had stopped by to visit at closing time. The girls had been shot.

The case consumed the Austin community. Since then, police have searched for the killers and hit numerous dead ends along the way. Over the years, there were dozens of suspects. Correspondent Erin Moriarty reports on this long, difficult case.

The case frustrated both police and the families of the four girls. "I want to know who did it, and why," says Bob Ayers, Amy's father. "I need to know that somebody's paying for this."

Then last year, on Oct. 6, police arrested four men and charged them with capital murder: Forest Welborn, 23, Maurice Pierce, 24, and Robert Springsteen and Michael Scott, both 25.

But the accused and those close to them say that police have the wrong men. "My husband's innocent. He did not do this," says Robin Moss, Springsteen's wife. "There is no way that he had anything to so with this."

Despite their families' protests and claims of innocence, two of the men actually confessed to the murders, police say. The accused and their families say that police unfairly coerced the confessions.

Confessions Under Pressure
Detectives can say they have evidence. Even when they don't. Read what 48 Hours found out.

Detectives that say nine years ago, the foursome had planned to simply rob the yogurt shop. On the afternoon of the robbery, police say, the boys went to case the store. They bought yogurts, and one, pretending to go to the bathroom, jammed a folded cigarette pack into the back door of the shop to keep it open.

Sometime after 11 p.m., police say, the four boys came back, armed with two guns. Three allegedly went into the store, while the fourth, Wellborn, stayed outside as a lookout. Pierce was the leader, police say.

All of this information came out, police say, when Scott suddenly confessed last September. Over the course of four days, detectives questioned Scott for more than 18 hours.

Scott told detectives tat when Pierce only found $14 in the register, he got angry. So the boys shot the four girls. According to Scott, Amy Ayers, 13, was raped by Springsteen before she was shot. Police claim that Springsteen confirmed many of Scott's details.

Last December a grand jury indicted three of the four suspects. Springsteen and Scott face the death penalty. If convicted, Pierce could spend life in prison. Welborn was not indicted. The first trial is not expected to take place until next year.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.