Ralph Harris (1 Viewer)


Ralph Harris

Classification: Serial killer
Characteristics: Serial rapist - Robberies
Number of victims: 6
Date of murders: 1992 / 1995
Date of arrest: August 29, 1995
Date of birth: July 11, 1972
Victims profile: Thomas Hodges / Jimmie Bramlett / David Ford / William Patterson / Eric Watkins / James Williamson
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Chicago, Illinois, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on March 26 and October 24, 1999. Commuted to life in prison

Serial killer Ralph Harris was found guilty by a jury on March 3, 1999, for the August 17, 1992 slaying of a Chatham community resident, and was sentenced to death on March 26. In addition to the death penalty, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Dennis Porter -- who compared the Soth Side resident to John Wayne Gacy -- sentenced Harris to 60 years in prison for trying to kill Patterson's brother and another 15 years in prison for robbing both men.

Authorities believe Harris allegedly committed four murders in 1992. The murder spree was interrupted in August 1992 when Harris was convicted and sentenced to seven years in prison for an 1991 armed robbery. Harris was paroled from prison on Jan. 20, 1995. A month later he started raping and robbing women at gunpoint. Harris also was charged with killing two men in 1995.

Most of victims Harris allegedly murdered were older men. Harris robbed, raped and murdered to feed a drug habit, police said. In total Harris was charged with six murders, 13 armed robberies and six sexual assaults.

When he was charged, some Chicago police detectives noted Harris, who at the tiem of his arrest was 23, didn't fit the usual mold of a serial killer, having been raised in a stable home with good parents.

Brief history of the cases

Over a three year period from July 21, 1992 to August 16, 1995, the defendant, Ralph Harris, terrorized the Chatham community in the southeast side of Chicago. During armed or attempt armed robberies in nine different attacks, the defendant fired twenty-eight shots into the bodies of eleven men, killing six and injuring five. Many who survived were critically injured. He sexually assaulted six women at gunpoint, and he robbed another nine victims, also at gunpoint.

The defendant is a serial killer, a serial rapist and a serial armed robber who is one of the most ruthless, diabolical cold-blooded criminals who has ever walked the streets of Chicago. His victims were men and women, both young and old. His victims included teachers, business people, laborers, counselors, custodians, cosmetologists, housewives, real estate brokers, administrative assistants, speech pathologists and retirees. Each of his victims were going about their life’s business, and each was randomly targeted by the defendant.

Although this violent and deadly crime spree extended over three years, the defendant was incarcerated from August 24, 1992 to January 22, 1995 in the Illinois Department of Corrections for two additional armed robberies for which he was convicted. Thus, the defendant was incarcerated for approximately twenty-nine of the thirty-seven month period. Shockingly the defendant, a one man crime wave, killed, injured, raped and robbed twenty-six victims in just eight months.

Prior to being sentenced to the Illinois Department of Corrections for the two armed robberies and while on bond for those armed robberies, the defendant shot Danny Smith seven times, shot Thomas Hodges one time killing him, shot Jimmie Bramlett two times, killing him, shot Willie Williams two times, shot David Ford five times killing him, shot William Patterson two times killing him, and shot James Patterson one time. The defendant killed David Ford and William Patterson and shot James Patterson on the same day. All the shootings occurred during armed or attempt armed robberies.

After being released from the Illinois Department of Corrections on January 22, 1995, the defendant didn’t wait long before resuming the attacks. Less than one month after his release on February 14, 1995, the defendant attacked his first victims. The last attack occurred just over six months later on August 16, 1995.

From February 14, 1995 to August 16, 1995, the defendant shot Eric Watkins two times killing him, shot James Henry four times, shot James Williamson one time killing him and shot James Brown one time all during armed or attempt armed robberies. His crimes took a new twist when he began sexually assaulting some of the women he robbed. He anally assaulted Marilyn Edwards, forced Bettye Webber to perform oral sex on him and vaginally assaulted her, attempted to anally penetrate Joan Porche, forced Rhonda Thompson to perform oral sex on him and anally and vaginally assaulted her, vaginally assaulted Rita Jackson and vaginally assaulted Deyonous Moore. All these sexual assaults occurred during armed robberies. In addition to killing two victims, shooting two others and sexually assaulting seven more victims during this six month period, the defendant robbed nine victims at gunpoint.

After the defendant was arrested on August 29, 1995, he was charged with twenty felony cases. In case 95CR-27598, the defendant was convicted by a jury of first degree murder and attempt armed robbery of William Patterson and attempt first degree murder and aggravated battery with a firearm of James Patterson on March 3, 1999.

On March 24, 1999, Judge Dennis Porter sentenced the defendant to the death penalty. In case number 95CR-27595, the defendant was convicted by Judge Porter of first degree murder and attempt armed robbery of David Ford on September 22, 1999.

Again Judge Porter sentenced the defendant to the death penalty on October 25, 1999. In case number 95CR-27600, the defendant was convicted by a jury of armed robbery and multiple counts of aggravated criminal sexual assault of Rhonda Thompson on April 7, 2000. On May 10, 2000, Judge Porter sentenced the defendant to a total of one hundred twenty years.

During the sentencing hearings, Judge Porter also heard about the defendant’s other criminal acts. In 1989 as a juvenile, the defendant stabbed a passenger who was riding on the Chicago Transit Authority train in the neck with a screwdriver and took his jacket. The defendant was found delinquent of robbery and aggravated robbery and sentenced to one year probation.

In 1990 police found the defendant in possession of a fully loaded twenty-two caliber H & R handgun. In 1991, the defendant committed two armed robberies with a handgun, victimizing a former sergeant with the Chicago Police Department and a woman with her grandchildren. On August 24, 1992, the defendant pled guilty to both armed robberies, and he was sentenced to seven years in the Illinois Department of Corrections.

Many of the defendant’s victims and/or their families attended the defendant’s trials and/or sentencing hearings. Many victims testified in aggravation during the sentencing hearings following the murder convictions. Victim impact statements of James Patterson, William Patterson’s brother, Naomi Michael Clark, David Ford’s mother, and Akira Ford, David Ford’s daughter, were presented in each respective sentencing hearing.

Evidence from most of the twenty charged cases was used in the trials or in aggravation during the sentencing hearings. Virtually every type of evidence was introduced against the defendant. That included eyewitness identification, DNA evidence, ballistics evidence, fingerprint evidence and the defendant’s confessions. Given the two death penalty sentences, the one hundred twenty year sentence and the testimony of the victims in aggravation, the remaining seventeen cases were dismissed by the People of the State of Illinois.

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