Murder suspect’s return to state uncertain |

Murder suspect’s return to state uncertain

by F.T. Norton
Appeal Staff Writer
David Winfield Mitchell

A hearing Wednesday in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago may reveal when a Mount Hope night watchman will be returned to U.S. soil to face charges in a 1982 murder.

Carson City District Attorney Noel Waters said Monday that David Winfield Mitchell, 60, will appear before a judge who handles extradition matters. If Mitchell doesn’t fight extradition back to the states, he could be here by week’s end.

“If he challenges extradition, things will take a little longer,” Waters said.

Mitchell was arrested by Interpol officials on Friday about 11:30 a.m. at his job for the Ministry of Works in Trinidad.

The results of DNA testing done in 2000 on evidence collected 24 years ago pegged Mitchell as the source of semen found on the body and clothing of 18-year-old murder victim Sheila Josephine Harris.

Harris, 18, was found dead by her mother in her Lompa Lane apartment on Jan. 6, 1982, after she failed to show up for her job at a Gardnerville grocery store. An autopsy revealed the reigning Miss Douglas County was beaten, sexually assaulted and strangled.

During interviews with Harris’ neighbors, investigators spoke with Mitchell, the complex’s maintenance man.

He denied knowing Harris, and said the only time he’d been in her apartment was in December when he cleaned it before she moved in.

Shortly after the murder, Mitchell and his wife moved to New York. Carson City investigators flew there for a further interview and at that time obtained hair and saliva samples, according to court records.

Based on a pubic hair found on sheets, Mitchell was arrested in 1986 on a charge of murder in Harris’ case. However, he was released from custody and the charges dismissed because there was insufficient evidence. While in custody, Mitchell submitted to a blood draw.

A review of the case in 1999 prompted the re-testing of evidence and criminologists compared Mitchell’s stored saliva, hair and blood against evidence found in Harris’ apartment.

“The DNA evidence in this case shows convincingly and conclusively that David Winfield MItchell and no other suspect was the person who committed the sexual assault and ligature strangulation of Sheila Josephine Harris in January of 1982,” Waters wrote of the recent DNA findings.

Waters said he had not yet decided whether to seek the death penalty against Mitchell.

“It’s been 24 years. If you’re going to act on a death case, you have to have certainty all the way along – including people’s memories,” he said.

• Contact reporter F.T. Norton at or 881-1213.