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Over 30 years ago, a Little Rock woman was brutally murdered. Her daughter is seeking justice

On a January night in 1989, Anita Shells was brutally attacked at a Little Rock house party. Her throat was slit and she was left to die in the street.

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — A Little Rock woman has become her mother’s own detective over 30 years after she was brutally murdered in 1989.

“I just grew up my whole life with it being a lie. You know I was never told, it was always a secret,” said Erika Killian. 

Killian’s life has revolved around a mystery without any closure.

It started as a baby at just three months old.

As she grew up, years went by with no idea she had been adopted.

Until one day as a teenager when she started questioning life, seemingly not fitting in with her family, who were actually her grandparents.

“I would look— when they would leave, I would go in nightstand drawers and search for pictures and I found one and said, 'who is this lady?'” Killian said. 

That lady was Anita Shells. She was Erika’s mother that she never knew. 

She looked just like her. That’s when she began to learn about her mother’s story.

“It wasn’t until I was able to make decisions on my own that I said, 'Okay now I’m going down to the police department. Now I’m going after the cold case file. Now I want to reach out, now I want to speak out,'” Killian told us.

Those files unraveled her mother’s fate.

On a dreary January night in east Little Rock in 1989, Anita Shells was brutally attacked at a house party. Her throat was slit and she was left to die in the streets.

“She crawled for miles knocking on people’s doors trying to get help,” Killian said. 

Shells later died at a hospital.

But that's when the investigation started to find out who killed her mother.

Little Rock police said they ended up arresting and charging a man by the name of Leroy Harris.

But days before he was scheduled for trial, the prosecution team dismissed the case.

“From my understanding, too many people told too many stories, too many people were scared, too many people skipped town,” Killian said.

Harris was set free and never convicted. Police told us not long after the case was dismissed, he died.

According to Little Rock police detectives, the case is closed. 

But Killian is still seeking justice. All she has left of her mother are the case files, haunting photos from the crime scene, and chilling details of what happened to her.

“That was a cold vicious night. She laid out there in the rain, stabbed up, bloody. I mean, it was vicious," she said. “I want closure. Justice for me is held in the court of law, for the law to know this man committed this heinous act, whether he’s alive or dead.”

She is hopeful that the case files will be dusted off and re-examined once again.

“This is terrible... there’s blood on the ground, there’s blood on her clothes, there’s blood on her shoes. I wonder how much blood was in the car,” Killian said, looking at her mother’s crime scene photos. 

She wonders if detectives have access to DNA swabs from the crime scene.

And if they do, she hopes one day that those could give her some answers.

“It’s not a solved case. Her murder should be solved,” she told us. 

Little Rock police are actively investigating numerous unsolved cases. If you have any information on any of them, contact the police.

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