TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A former deputy identified as the only likely suspect in the murder of a young girl spent a decade working in Florida law enforcement, but an investigation found almost no trace. of his visit to them.
St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office cold case detectives say James Howard Harrison is the likely suspect in the November 6, 1983 kidnapping, sexual assault and murder of 11-year-old Lora Ann Huizar, in St. Lucie County. Harrison was a deputy in the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office at the time.
Harrison died in 2008 but was identified as the suspect in the cold case last week.
Few local documents linking Harrison to the Tampa Bay area have survived, but Nexstar’s WFLA found a three-page form filed with the Florida Retirement System and a 1972 letter of recommendation.
These documents show that Hernando County Sheriff Sim Lowman called Harrison “reliable”, writing, “I think this man would do an outstanding job for you.”
“People can be very good at what they do but have a dark, sinister side to them,” former FBI agent Jennifer Coffindaffer said.
According to cold case detectives in St. Lucia, Harrison allegedly assaulted and killed 11-year-old Huizar in 1983. Coffindaffer says it’s unlikely she was the only victim.
The former agent also says it’s unusual that Harrison worked at 10 different agencies. St. Lucie detectives say Harrison was a Hernando County deputy and a Brooksville police officer.
“Most law enforcement officers don’t skip agencies,” Coffindaffer explained. “I think a cold case team in each of those jurisdictions needs to be assigned to this case.”
So far, cold case detectives in Hernando say they haven’t linked any unsolved cases to Harrison.
The City of Brooksville, which is believed to have records from the now-disbanded Brooksville Police Department, says it “searched the records extensively” but found no trace of Harrison.
Coffindaffer says most predators attack where they live and work. Still, she thinks the dozens of Tampa Bay-area agencies should check their unsolved cases.
“I would limit my focus to someone similar to the little girl where her actions seem to have been on display, and I would watch that in that county,” Coffindaffer said. “These departments may have to dig by hand.”
The former FBI agent says other potential victims are pre-teen girls who have been sexually assaulted.