Sarah Harbison, Amy Ayers: ’48 Hours’ Spotlights Austin, Texas, Yogurt Shop Murders Of Teens Found Stacked, Bodies Burned

Tonight’s 48 Hours will highlight the grisly murders of four teens whose badly burned bodies were found stacked on top of the other in a yogurt shop in Austin, Texas, more than 25 years ago. On the CBS 48 Hours episode “Innocence Lost,” Erin Moriarty will step back in time to peel back the layers of a murder case that she first heard about in 1991. The killings were so shocking that it rocked the local police department and the town.

In the cold winter of December 1991, the city of Austin was sent reeling after the badly burned bodies of four teenage girls were found in the back of the I Can’t Believe It’s Yogurt shop. An autopsy report later revealed that the victims had been bound, gagged, and then shot in the head before they were stacked and the bodies set on fire, according to News 8-Austin.

“Prosecutor Robert Smith said that firefighters had to break down the front door of the store because it was locked with the key still in the lock.They discovered Ayers’ body and then the bodies of the others. Ayers was found lying in the “middle” section of the store. Sarah Harbison was found gagged with her hands tied behind her. Smith said her body was extensively burned. Eliza Thomas was found on top of Sarah Harbison in a similar manner. Her body and face were burned beyond recognition, and she was identified by dental records. Smith said investigators believed that Jennifer Harbison’s body was originally on top of the other two girls. However she was found nearby having been moved by the fire.”

Detectives had received a call indicating that there was a fire in the shop, and they were in disbelief to see that there were bodies inside.

The victims were identified as follows.

  1. 17-year-old Eliza Thomas
  2. 17-year-old Jennifer Harbison
  3. 15-year-old Sarah Harbison
  4. 13-year-old Amy Ayers

On CBS 48 Hours, John Jones, will discuss how shocked he was to find out that the victims at the yogurt shop were all kids–innocent teenagers who didn’t deserve what happened to them. The murder seen was unforgettable. Jones was used to working homicide scenes. That was his job. But up until that point, he had never seen four teens with their bodies stacked and burned in that manner. The discovery was shocking and sickening.

The most difficult part for Sgt. John Jones was having to notify the parents of these victims. He also promised them that he would do everything in his power to find the killers.

Sarah and Jennifer Harbison’s mother will also appear on the show and will describe how she received the news during the early morning hours after the discovery was made.

However, finding the killers wouldn’t be easy. The case would go cold for the next eight years until there was a break in the case. But was it the correct break?

Over the years, there were a couple of false confessions, according to CBS News.

“Two Mexican nationals confessed to the crime while being held in a Mexican prison. The two men subsequently recanted their confessions, claiming they were beaten. Mexican authorities have never allowed Austin police to talk to the men, however, and the pair has never been charged in the Yogurt Shop case.”

Then in 1999, the Austin Police Department arrested four men and charged them with capital murder. Two of the men were eventually found guilty.

  • Robert Springsteen was found guilty and sentenced initially to death. That sentence was later changed to life.
  • Michael Scott was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

According to the Austin Chronicle, a married couple had seen two strange men sitting in the yogurt shop having drinks that fateful night. The men looked so menacing that it gave the wife the creeps. The girls were last seen alive at around 10 p.m.

But the case didn’t end there. It seemed that police had gotten it all wrong. The evidence was now pointing to some other unknown killers. To see the latest in the investigation, tune into 48 Hours tonight at 9/8 p.m. Central on CBS. The last time Inquisitr examined a 48 Hours episode, it was based on the story of Phonthip Boonack. Read up on that case here.

[Featured Image by Harry Cabluck/AP Images]