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Onetime Child Suspect In Ryan Harris Murder Gets 52 Years For Shooting

Ryan Harris

Ryan Harris, 11, was found murdered in an overgrown backyard in Englewood on July 28, 1998. (Credit: Blair Holt Memorial Foundation)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — One of the boys who were wrongly accused in the 1998 murder of an 11-year-old girl named Ryan Harris will still be spending 52 years in prison for another crime.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports Romarr Gipson, now, 21, was sentenced by Cook County Judge Brian K. Flaherty Friday for the shooting of two men at a Calumet Park gas station on June 14, 2006. The incident was caught on surveillance video.

Gipson, who was 15 at the time, was charged an adult in the shootings at a Citgo station at 12304 S. Halsted St. He and another man, Roman Foreman, allegedly shot the victims as they sat in a car, according to a Chicago Tribune report.

Investigators said the shooting would have been worse if Gipson’s gun had not jammed, the Sun-Times reported.

Gipson was arrested again while out on bond in 2008, on charges of drug possession, aggravated assault with a dangerous weapon and resisting arrest, and was also charged with aggravated battery to a police officer in 2010, the Sun-Times reported.

Gipson and his friend, Elijah Henderson, now 22, became the youngest murder defendants in America in 1998 when they were charged with the murder of Ryan Harris.

On July 28, 1998, Ryan’s naked body was found in a weedy backyard behind the building in the 6800 block of South Parnell Avenue in the Englewood neighborhood. Ryan’s body was naked, with her underwear stuffed in her mouth and a leaf in each nostril.

Soon afterward, Gipson and Henderson – whose names were not released at the time – were charged with murder. Detectives said Gipson had said he and Henderson had thrown rocks at Harris while she rode her bike. But detectives later concluded that the boys had knocked Ryan off her bike, and that Henderson held her down while Gipson bashed her in the head with a bloody brick that was found at the scene.

But the charges against Gipson and Henderson were dropped a short time later, after police found semen on the Ryan’s underwear that the boys could not possibly have produced.

The City of Chicago settled with Gipson’s family $2 million in 2004, and with Henderson’s family for $6.2 million the following year.

By the time he was arrested in the Calumet Park shooting, Gipson already had a record for cruelty to animals, possessing a stolen motor vehicle and drug possession – among other charges—according to published reports.

Henderson has also had troubles with the law since the Ryan Harris case. Last year, he was convicted of aggravated battery to a police officer along with his mother, Sonya Crawford, in charges that stemmed from a melee with police in April 2008.

The charges stemmed from an incident where a driver sped away and fled to the Crawford residence after a traffic stop. But Henderson’s defense attorney, Andre Grant, said officers beat him.

Durr was charged with the Ryan Harris murder in 1999. He pleaded guilty to the murder in 2007 and was sentenced to life in prison plus 30 years. Prosecutors said Durr’s IQ was too low for him to be eligible for the death penalty, the Tribune reported.