After 25 years, family hopes for justice in daughter’s murder |

After 25 years, family hopes for justice in daughter’s murder

by Sheila Gardner
Nevada Appeal News Service
David Winfield Mitchell

When David Winfield Mitchell goes on trial Monday, the family of murder victim Sheila Harris hopes justice will be served 25 years after the 18-year-old college student was found murdered in her Carson City apartment.

Mitchell, 61, who was the maintenance man at Harris’ apartment building, was arrested last year in Trinidad and charged with the 1982 murder.

For the victim’s mother and sisters, the trial represents another chapter in their efforts to bring Harris’ killer to justice.

“At this moment, I feel grateful and sad,” said Linda Bratton, Harris’ mother.

“Even though it’s been 25 years, it doesn’t make any difference,” she said. “It’s like it was yesterday or last month. We never put it behind us.”

Harris had moved into her east Carson City apartment five days before she was found sexually assaulted, beaten and strangled on Jan. 6, 1982.

The Douglas High School graduate moved to Carson City to attend Western Nevada Community College and work at Raley’s.

Bratton and a friend found her daughter’s body after Harris failed to show up for work.

“The last year has had its ups and downs,” Bratton said. “You relive that evening in your mind over and over again like you did the first 10 years.”

For Harris’ sisters Shannon Harris, 33, and Jamie Bratton, 26, the trial represents an opportunity for justice.

“I just want the truth to come out. That’s what I am looking forward to,” said Shannon Harris who was 7 when her sister died.

“People talk about us finally having closure,” she said. “Closure is not the word. Nothing will ever take away the pain or the sadness of losing Sheila. We will finally be able to watch the system at work.”

The family plans to attend every day of the trial which is expected to last up to a month.

“We’ve just received tremendous support from the community,” Linda Bratton said. “People are constantly asking us what’s going on, not because they’re nosy, but because they care.”

Bratton said she was grateful to the Carson City District Attorney’s Office, which will be prosecuting Mitchell.

“They have communicated and worked so well with us,” she said. “We really appreciate them.”

Pre-trial motions are to be heard today in Carson City District Court before Judge Todd Russell with jury selection to begin Monday.

Mitchell, arrested a year ago after DNA evidence linked him to the killing, pleaded not guilty in December to a charge of open murder. He is being held without bail in Carson City Jail.

“I just don’t ever want him out on the street again,” Bratton said. “I can’t bring Sheila back, but my whole fight has been to keep him off the street so he can’t hurt any other family.”

Bratton said it will be difficult to hear the details of her daughter’s final moments, but she’s prepared for the trial she’s sought for 25 years.

“I feel so close to Sheila,” Bratton said. “It’s like she’s right beside me saying, ‘It’s OK, Mom, and thank you.'”