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Who killed Mildred Harris? Jacksonville police get DNA match in 27-year cold case

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Who killed Mildred Harris?

A big break could bring closure to a Jacksonville cold case that’s been unsolved for nearly three decades.

Detectives said DNA found on a woman murdered on the westside in 1997 matches someone living in Duval County.

Harris was 41 when workers at a nearby CSX railyard found her body on Warrington Street.

“She was dumped out on the side of the road, she had blunt force trauma,” said Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office cold case unit detective Travis Oliver.

She had been brutally beaten. Detectives believe it happened in a vehicle before her killer dumped her body.

Detectives know she’s more than another cold case file, one more unsolved murder. She was a beloved mother of 3 young boys. The surviving 2 brothers are still haunted by the brutal attack that took her away from them.

“They have been traumatized by this, her son that we deal with the most was 15 years old when it happens,” Det. Oliver explained. “He has medical problems that he contributed to the stress of losing his mother over the timeframe and never having a closure that he needed.”

Now, there’s a hint of optimism. A break in the case.

“So we do nail clippings and DNA swabs of the victim (during autopsies),” Oliver noted. “And it was as of recently in the last a year or so that we had a DNA confirmation from the victim that has given us more leads to move forward on.”

Police routinely collect DNA swaps from suspects arrested for felonies and add the results to a national database. Investigators get what they call hits when that data matches DNA from past cases entered into the system.

Investigators are confident now that a DNA match has identified the killer, a man with a lengthy criminal record. However, to make a murder arrest and get a conviction in court, they need more evidence.

JSO isn’t identifying the person of interest for the sake of the investigation.

“There’s a couple of witnesses that have never cooperated with the police,” Oliver said. “We know that those witnesses are still alive. We really need those witnesses to come forward and help us to bring the closure that we need.”

It’s critical they come forward. Detective Oliver isn’t giving up. It’s more than a career, it’s a calling.

“I lost my father to a homicide when I was young, and in my adult years, one of my brothers was murdered,” he said, noting both cases ended with arrests. “So homicide investigation is near to me because I can relate to the families I have been in their shoes.”

He said he hopes this story will bring the Harris family answers as police bring the killer to justice.

If you know anything, call JSO at 904-630-0500.

To be eligible for a cash reward up to $3,000, and to remain anonymous, call First Coast Crime Stoppers at 1-866-845-TIPS or visit http://www.fccrimestoppers.com/.

Copyright 2023 by WJXT News4JAX – All rights reserved.




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