Murder of Devan Duniver and false conviction of Anthony Harris investigated on Crime Junkie

Family pic of Devan Duniver
The murder of Devan Duniver has remained unsolved for over 25 years. Pic credit: Family pic

Crime Junkie is examining the unsolved murder of young girl Devan Duniver who was stabbed to death after going outside to play near her apartment home in New Philadelphia, Ohio.

At the time, the cops zeroed in on 12-year-old neighbor, Anthony Harris, as the killer. The cops controversially forced a false confession out of the boy, and he was wrongly convicted. Meanwhile, 26 years later, Devan’s real killer has never been found.

On June 27, 1998, five-year-old Devan went missing at about 2 p.m. Her mother, Lori Duniver, spent all afternoon searching for her and enlisted the help of her neighbors, including 12-year-old Anthony. The police were notified in the evening.

The searchers’ worst fears were confirmed the following day when Devan’s body was discovered in a wooded area a mere 150 feet from her apartment. She had been stabbed multiple times in the neck.

A couple of weeks later, as the pressure mounted on the cops to solve the crime, detectives brought Anthony and his mother, Cynthia Miller, to the police station. Anthony was interviewed by Thomas Vaughn, the police chief of nearby Millersburg, who supposedly had training in interrogation.

Cynthia was able to watch the interrogation through a two-way mirror but could not hear what was being said.

The police coerced a confession from Anthony Harris for Devan Duniver murder

Eventually, Anthony confessed to killing the five-year-old girl. However, he later told his mother that he was innocent and had only admitted to the crime because he was “scared.”

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Later, Anthony claimed Vaughn had told him he could go home if he just admitted to killing Devan.

Anthony went to trial in January 1999, but due to his age, his fate was decided by Juvenile and Probate Court Judge Linda Kate rather than a jury. Despite a lack of evidence against the young offender and suggestions the confession may have been coerced, Kate pronounced Anthony guilty and sentenced him to be incarcerated until he was 21, the maximum sentence for juveniles.

Just over a year later, the Fifth District Ohio Appellate Court, through out the conviction, and Anthony was released.

Who really killed Devan Duniver?

A number of other suspects later came to light in the Devan Duniver murder case. A year before the murder, the boyfriend of her mother, Lori, had actually kidnapped Devan for three days. He was a convicted felon and drug addict who had contacted Lori a few weeks before the killing, hoping to rekindle their relationship.

Another potential suspect was Devan’s father, who allegedly had a history of domestic abuse and was in a dispute with Lori over child support payments.

A third suspect emerged when police dogs traced a scent to the home of a convicted child molester who had just been released from prison.

A number of the people who searched for Devan on the day she vanished insisted that they had thoroughly examined the area where she was eventually found. This suggests that Devan was murdered elsewhere and her body dumped later. Witnesses recalled seeing a man in the area wearing a long-sleeve plaid flannel shirt, which was strange considering the 90-degree summer heat.

A lawsuit for Anthony Harris’s wrongful conviction was later settled by the cities of New Philadelphia and Millersburg, Tuscarawas County, and the District Attorney at the time of Anthony’s conviction. The murder of Devan Duniver remains unsolved.

MURDERED: Devan Duniver is available to download now on Crime Junkie.

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