By Karl Terry, PNT Managing Editor
A former Portales man was arrested in Colorado on Friday after a cold-case homicide lead was developed through a DNA database.
Officers from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and Clear Creek County, Colo., deputies arrested Ricky Lee Harnish, 52, in connection with the 1976 death of 16-year-old Holly Marie Andrews, a majorette at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.
Harnish lived in Portales from approximately 1988 to 1995, according to Roosevelt County Sheriff Darren Hooker.
“Right now we’re just assisting CBI by conducting interviews here,” Hooker said.
Hooker said one interview was conducted with Harnish’s ex-wife.
Sarah Meyer of Portales said she married Harnish in 1990 and he left Portales shortly before they were divorced in 1995.
She said she learned of his arrest last week from a friend of a friend. She said it came as a surprise and she had never heard him talk of a crime.
“I never saw anything that would lead me to believe he would be capable of doing something like that,” Meyer said.
Meyer moved to Tucumcari in 1997 and then to Los Alamos and Santa Fe before she returned to Portales about a year-and-a-half ago. She is a reporter at the Clovis News Journal.
Andrews left her mother’s Littleton home the day after Christmas in 1976 and disappeared, according to a story last week in the Rocky Mountain News. Her nearly nude and battered body was found the next day by cross-country skiers near Bakerville, west of Denver. She had been stabbed in the back six times and her chest was slashed.
The case went cold until Henry Lee Lucas confessed to killing Andrews, according to the Rocky Mountain News. Lucas confessed to hundreds of murders, some of which evidence suggests he didn’t commit. Andrews’ killing was one of those in which officials doubted Lucas’ involvement.
Police chalked Harnish’s arrest up to a growing DNA database in Colorado, which produced a hit after Harnish submitted to a DNA test following a felony conviction in a 2005 drug case in Colorado. That DNA sample was matched to a genetic fingerprint left on Andrews’ body, according to authorities.
According to the Rocky Mountain News, in 1976, Harnish’s parents lived less than 1 1/2 miles from Andrews’ mother.
Harnish was arrested at a halfway house in Aurora, Colo., where he was working off the 2005 drug case sentence. He remains in a Clear Creek County jail without bail.