Could timing have prevented tragic end for missing elderly woman?

by: Aaron Diamant Updated:


HENRY COUNTY, Ga. - When Henry County police discovered the body of Lucilla Harris, 72, of Atlanta, it was the tragic end to a saga which Channel 2 Action News learned began more than a week earlier.

Channel 2's Aaron Diamant spent the day Monday reconstructing the last days in the life of Harris.

She disappeared last Saturday but wasn't found until several days later.

Diamant confirmed Monday that Henry County Police pulled Harris over for weaving along East Fairview road at 11:38 p.m. on Saturday, Nov 23.

A department representative said Harris told the officer she was trying to get back to Atlanta, he gave her directions and sent her on her way.

More than 27 hours later, at 3:41 a.m. on Monday Nov. 25, a neighbor's surveillance camera captured Harris shuffling across a back deck in her slippers, a nightgown and light coat.

Later that day, Harris' family reported her missing.

In an Atlanta police report taken at 3:36 p.m. that same day, the officer recounts a conversation with Harris' niece who said Harris "has gone missing before," and has what "she believes to be some sort of dementia."

Six minutes later at 3:47 p.m., Henry County police found Harris' abandoned car, ran the plates, but didn't make the connection.

"(If we) have evidence to show it's connected to a crime or a missing person we'll impound it immediately, but in this case we just didn't have that information," said Sgt. Joey Smith with the Henry County Police Department.

In an email, an APD representative said, "The report had not been filed when Henry County initially came in contact with the vehicle."

And sources said the missing person's report didn't end up in GCIC, the state's central crime database, until 6:30 p.m. Monday.

On Tuesday, Nov. 26, Harris' family shared a homemade missing person's notice with Channel 2 Action News.

On Wednesday, Nov. 27 at 8:16 a.m., Atlanta police finally issued a Mattie's Call for Harris.

When Henry County police were called again about Harris' Saturn Friday evening, the Mattie's Call helped confirm it was her car.

The next morning, police discovered Harris' body just 50 feet away.

APD still won't say why it waited for two days after Harris' family reported her missing before issuing the Mattie's Call.

Meanwhile, the Henry County coroner confirmed that Harris died from exposure, but can't determine an exact time of death.

Channel 2 Action News

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