Cold Case Investigation Into 1988 Arizona Murder Leads To Bizarre Jail-Free Conviction

This Yavapai County Sheriff's Office photo shows Shelly Harmon, 50, after she was arrested in the 1988 death of Pamela Pitts (right). Pitts of Prescott, Arizona was murdered 30 years ago. Her body was found in 1988, in a pile of trash, burned beyond recognition.
This Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office photo shows Shelly Harmon, 50, after she was arrested in the 1988 death of Pamela Pitts (right). Pitts of Prescott, Arizona was murdered 30 years ago. Her body was found in 1988, in a pile of trash, burned beyond recognition.

FLAGSTAFF, AZ – A cold case investigation into the murder of Pamela Pitts has lead to a bizarre jail-free conviction. According to authorities, Pamela Pitts of Prescott, Arizona was murdered 30 years ago. Her body was found in 1988, in a pile of trash, burned beyond recognition. In 2021, her murderer would finally confess. After an endless stream of tips, and decades of suspicion, a former roommate, Shelly Harmon, 50, confessed, but will not serve time for the murder.

Harmon, who has already served 20 years for the shooting of her former boyfriend Raymond F. Clerx, was long suspected in the murder but never charged. As her sentence was ending, police started monitoring Harmon’s phone calls at her prison. On one such call, Harmon and her father were discussing the circumstances of Pitts’s disappearance. Shelly told her father that she had “a huge moment” with regards to Pitts. This led prosecutors to believe this as an admission of guilt.

Harmon was arrested in June 2017 in connection to Pitts murder. She was held at the Camp Verde Detention Center in 2017 on suspicion of first-degree murder. Harmon, who was previously convicted for the murder of her boyfriend Clerx, whom Harmon was convicted of having killed him in a burst of anger as Clerx wanted to end their relationship and had threatened to take their dogs. Harmon shot him.



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As far as the murder of Pamela Pitts, Harmon changed her story over the years. Using Clerx as her alibi, Harmon stated that Pitts was strangled by another roommate. Pitts was 19-years-old at the time of her death. She was last seen at a party at a place known as “Gordo’s Pitt” or “Alto Pit,” which was located in a forested area of Prescott, Arizona. Her remains were discovered roughly two weeks later on September 29, 1988 with her remains “burned beyond recognition” and dumped into a pile of trash in a mineshaft in the local area. Pitts’ burns were described by the local coroner as “post-mortem incineration.”

Pamela Pitts has been remembered as a rowdy teenager with a soft side, a punk rocker personality of the 80s, whose room smelled of Aqua Net. She was described as “bubbly” and someone with a compassionate streak, who had pets and cared for the elderly, according to NBC News.
Pamela Pitts has been remembered as a rowdy teenager with a soft side, a punk rocker personality of the 80s, whose room smelled of Aqua Net. She was described as “bubbly” and someone with a compassionate streak, who had pets and cared for the elderly, according to NBC News.

It is believed that one of the ways Harmon avoided suspicion in Pitts’ death was by driving around the city on the day she disappeared, threatening to “kill her if she found her.”

After serving time for killing Clerx, Harmon moved to Nevada. She lived in the greater Carson City area, as reported by NBC12. Harmon was said to be leading a ‘regular life’ complete with marriage, a mortgage, and tax work, but she had failed to register as a felon. That’s when she was picked up and later informed of her new murder charge. With a judge telling prosecutors that two key pieces of evidence couldn’t be introduced at trial, the case about Clerx, and the remains of Pitts which were too badly damaged by fire, prosecutors offered and Harmon agreed to a plea deal admitting guilt to second-degree murder.

As part of that plea deal, Harmon stated she was angry with Pitts for being late on her rent and overdrawing a joint bank account. She confessed to having just “lost” it on Pitts during an argument and claimed to have beaten her on the ground and panicked when she realized she had killed her. Pitts’ surviving family, however, did not believe this account.

Harmon has returned to Nevada where she has found friends who believe she “did not do it” to lead the rest of her “miserable life” as the Pitts family put it. The Pitts family also noted that while their daughter did not receive the level of justice they had hoped for, the conviction has delivered a needed bit of closure.

Pamela Pitts has been remembered as a rowdy teenager with a soft side, a punk rocker personality of the 80s, whose room smelled of Aqua Net at a time of big hair styles and music. She was described as “bubbly” and someone with a compassionate streak, who had pets and cared for the elderly, according to NBC News.

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