Rhondalynn Harris says she has no memories of her mother Vonda Harris whatsoever.
Harris was one-year-old and her older sister Penny was five, when they lost their mother on a cold February night in 1977.
Harris recalls the gruesome details of her mother’s murder. “She had been found nude, she had been stabbed three times, she had been beat in the head over and over constantly, they tied her up and they left her out there in 30 degree weather,” she said.
The accused killer, 17-year-old Gerald Manning. Harris says he admitted to the murder after being questioned for over 33 hours by Monroe police, and she said no one believed he was guilty.
So Harris decided to do something about it and she took a job at the courthouse. While there began to investigate her mother’s murder with the help of the court clerk.
“She brought me all the transcripts and it took me about four to five months [to go through it] because I used my lunch breaks to do it. It was like a movie, I read it from the beginning to the end and that’s where I came up with my conclusion that he didn’t do it,” Harris said.
Harris and her sister spent half of their lives fighting to help set Manning free.
She says her mother knew how to defend herself and she is convinced a 17-year-old couldn’t have killed her mom alone.
“He told the judge how he was done, how they had beat him around, choked him, how he had been sitting there and how he was pressured to make that confession,” Harris said.
Manning was released Tuesday, and Harris says, they couldn’t be happier.
“[All the] prayers and tears we done shed, it feels good because who wants someone incarcerated for the murder of your mom that didn’t even commit it. I don’t see how they slept at night because I couldn’t even sleep at night,” she said.
Now her family’s mission is to reopen the case and help find her mom’s real killer.
“The person could be alive, he could be dead we just want to continue to make an effort like we’ve been doing,” Harris said.
Harris says she owes big thanks to Roosevelt Wright and the Innocence Project New Orleans for helping get Gerald Manning out of prison.
Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights also helped with Manning’s release.
The Harris family is in need of legal advice and help. Anyone willing to help can call us at (318) 323-1972 for more information.