Alleged killer appears in court | NevadaAppeal.com

Alleged killer appears in court

by F.T. Norton
Appeal Staff Writer

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal Shannon Harris, left, and her mother, Linda Bratton, listen Friday morning as the man suspected of murdering Bratton's teenage daughter 24 years ago is arraigned. David Winfield Mitchell was extradited back to the U.S. on Thursday. Friday's hearing was his first appearance in court on a charge of open murder in the killing of Sheila Jo Harris, 18.

A 61-year-old West Indies man charged with open murder in the 1982 killing of a Carson City teen told a judge on Friday he has no assets in this country and cannot afford to hire an attorney.

David Winfield Mitchell made his first appearance in Carson City Justice Court over closed-circuit television from the jail on Friday. He returned to the U.S. from the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago under police guard Thursday.

The retired nightwatchman confirmed he has about $50,000 in assets in his home country, but that it is not accessible or likely enough for his defense against the charge that he murdered Sheila Jo Harris in her apartment on Jan. 6, 1982.

Justice of the Peace Robey Willis appointed Public Defenders Paul Geise and Diane Crow to Mitchell’s case. A preliminary hearing is set for Nov. 17.

Mitchell, who led a quiet life in Port-of-Spain where he lived with his teenage daughter, was arrested in August after a review of DNA evidence linked him to the strangulation death of Harris, 18.

Harris’ battered body was found by her mother in the bedroom of her Foothills Garden Apartment after she failed to show up to work. An autopsy revealed the community college student had been beaten and sexually assaulted.

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Mitchell worked at the apartment complex as a handyman and was a suspect in the case from the start.

He was arrested in the 1980s, but the charges were later dismissed with a right to refile because of a lack of evidence. Shortly after Harris’ murder, Mitchell and his ex-wife moved to New York, where he was deported to Trinidad after being accused of being in the country illegally.

He is being held without bail in the Carson City Jail.

• Contact reporter F.T. Norton at ftnorton@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1213.