‘People Magazine Investigates’ is one of the several true-crime series from the country’s largest crime entertainment network, Investigation Discovery. The series covers heart-wrenching cold-blooded crimes that have grabbed the headlines and hence, the attention of the common public. One such case featured by the series is the gruesome murder of Gregory Harris.
The baffling aspect of this case is the wrongful conviction of two men in this murder, one of whom was proven to be innocent after approximately 45 years of imprisonment. The case has left the viewers with multiple questions that we have tried to answer by conducting our own little research.
How Did Gregory Harris Die?
Shortly after 1 p.m., on June 26, 1971, Gregory Harris left his residence in Detroit, Michigan, to purchase a pack of cigarettes, never to return. The following day (June 27), Harris’ wife came upon his car, which was abandoned and in which she spotted bloodstains on the seats. The police then examined the car but did not take any photographs or samples. The car was returned to Harris’ wife, who cleaned it. Almost a year later, on March 3, 1972, a highway maintenance worker discovered Harris’ body in a cluster of trees about 20 feet far from the road near 19 Mile Road and Dequindre Road near Troy, Michigan.
The body was identified by Harris’ wife, following which an autopsy was conducted. The results of the autopsy revealed the cause of death to be a gunshot in the head. A little less than two weeks after Harris’ body was found, Fred Mitchell was arrested on charges of armed robbery and carrying a concealed weapon, on March 15, 1972. On his arrest, Mitchell told the police that he wanted to speak with detectives. Mitchell, Harris’ brother-in-law, was also a prior convict charged with manslaughter and was hence a primary suspect.
Another reason for suspicion against him rose from the fact that he had also been missing after Harris’ disappearance. In July 1971, Mitchell was stopped by the police, who then confiscated a .22 caliber pistol from him. In November 1971, he was brought in for interrogation. The detectives asked him about Harris, to which Mitchel later implicated two other men: Richard Phillips and Richard Palombo.
Who Killed Gregory Harris?
Richard Polombo and Fred Mitchell allegedly killed Gregory Harris. In 1972, a few days after Gregory Harris’ body was discovered on March 3, Fred Mitchell told the police that Richard Phillips and Richard Palombo had killed Gregory Harris. Mitchell first met Palombo in jail when he was serving his time for manslaughter conviction and Palombo for an armed robbery conviction. At the time of Mitchell’s interrogation, Phillips was in prison for an armed robbery conviction. After Mitchell’s questioning, Phillips and Palombo were charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder.
The two were convicted in their trial in the Wayne County Circuit Court in September 1972. Evidence put forth by the prosecution included ballistics, which linked the .22 caliber pistol confiscated from Mitchell in July 1971 to the bullets that were retrieved from Harris’ body. The only evidence against Phillips and Palombo was Mitchell’s testimony implicating the two of them for his brother-in-law’s murder. Mitchell addressed the jury, stating that he had convinced Harris they were going to commit a burglary together. He claimed that he was dropped off at a bar to act as a lookout.
He then added that the two suspects allegedly shot Harris once in the head and once in the abdomen. On October 5, 1972, the jury convicted Palombo and Phillips of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. They were both sentenced to life in prison without parole. In 2010, Polombo came forward with the truth that he and Fred Mitchell had killed Harris. On March 28, 2018, Phillips was exonerated and the charges against him were dismissed on the grounds of false testimony which had acted as the primary basis for his conviction. In May 2019, Phillips was also given $1.5 million as compensation.
Read More: Where Is Richard Phillips Now?