Austin 'Yogurt Shop Murders': Texas congressman's cold case legislation passes 30 years after carnage
Austin remembers ‘Yogurt Shop Murders’ 30 years later
The city of Austin, Texas – and the rest of the county – on Dec. 6 remembered the infamous ‘Yogurt Shop Murders’ 30 years after four teenage girls were brutally murdered at a frozen yogurt shop in 1991.
The House Judiciary Committee has passed legislation from Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, giving the families of cold case victims the opportunity to petition the federal government to reexamine cases older than three years.
The House Judiciary Committee voted to pass the bill on Wednesday, 30 years after unknown suspects brutally murdered four teenage girls in an Austin, Texas, frozen yogurt shop.
The Dec. 6, 1991 case became known as the “Yogurt Shop Murders.”
I Can’t Believe It’s Yogurt store. (Credit: FOX 7 Austin)
“I remember at the time how shocking it was because I think Austin, at that time, was still a relatively small town in Texas that kind of lost its innocence on that day,” McCaul told Fox News. “This brutal murder of four teenage girls, and the way it was done … that may happen in other cities, but not Austin. It was very shocking, and it still is 30 years later, and part of it is because the families never got a resolution to the case.”
The murder victims were 13-year-old Amy Ayers; Amy’s friend, 15-year-old Sarah Harbison; Sarah’s sister, 17-year-old Jennifer Harbison; and Jennifer’s friend, 17-year-old Eliza Thomas. Amy and Sarah were visiting the yogurt shop where Jennifer and Eliza were working at the time when suspects entered the store, bound and gagged the girls and shot each of them in the head before setting the yogurt shop on fire.
"Yogurt Shop Murders" victims (Credit: FOX 7 Austin)
Four men were arrested in 1991 in connection to the murders, according to FOX 7 Austin.
Charges against two of the four were dropped, and prosecutors dismissed pending murder charges against the other two suspects in 2009 due to the revelation of new DNA evidence linked to an unknown male. No new suspects have been identified since then.
"Yogurt Shop Murders" suspects. (Credit: FOX 7 Austin)
McCaul, former Texas deputy attorney general and former federal prosecutor, sent a letter to the FBI in 2019 asking the bureau to provide DNA samples from the case for a Y-STR matching test, but the FBI said the test would result in thousands of matches and be rendered inconclusive.
The Homicide Victim Families’ Rights Act would give families the opportunity to petition the federal government to reopen a federal case if it is still “cold” after three years and has probative leads. The new legislation requires the federal government to inform family members of cold case victims of their right to do so, the congressman explained
Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
While the congressman’s legislation would not apply to the “Yogurt Shop Murders” case because the case is still open, and the bill applies only to federal cold cases, he has been in touch with the families of the Yogurt Shop Murder victims to discuss the legislation.
“It does fundamentally change how the system operates,” McCaul said. “It’s just law enforcement that has that right. This gives that right to the victims’ families so they can petition the government to reopen the case, and it would be done by a cold case unit [within] the DOJ with federal investigators.”
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