Deceased deputy suspected of killing girl in 1983 cold case

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (NewsNation Now) — The only suspect in the 1983 murder of an 11-year-old girl is a now-dead Florida deputy, the St. Lucie County, Florida Sheriff’s Office announced Thursday.

Lora Ann Huizar was found dead three days after she was reported missing. She was last seen walking home from a gas station.

Det. Paul Taylor, who worked the case, said the pieces started coming together when he visited the spot she was last seen.

“I looked to the east and you could see the store where she’d left her friend,” Taylor said Thursday on “NewsNation Prime. “If you look to the south, you can see her mailbox down by the street.”

It suggested the killer had a small window of time in which to act.

Taylor built up several suspects as he investigated the case, only to see the case against them eventually crumble. The only one that fit the evidence was James Howard Harrison, a St. Lucie deputy at the time.

The rural area where Huizar was found was in Harrison’s patrol area, Taylor said. People familiar with the case told Taylor that Harrison was asked about the girl’s death, but there were no official records of him being interviewed.

Harrison had instructed two witnesses to leave the scene approximately 20 minutes before additional law enforcement personnel arrived, St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Brian Hester said at a news conference. Cold case detectives also learned that the location and position of Huizar’s body documented by initial crime scene investigators and detectives differed from initial witness accounts, he said.

Taylor said on “NewsNation Prime” this is the fourth cold case he’s solved since assuming that beat in 2019. He was returning to work after a shoulder injury and decided to look into those cases to ease back into duty. He solved a case within two months, and soon became the county’s first cold case detective.

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