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More than 30 years after Pamela Pitts' charred body was discovered on a pile of trash in 1988, her former roommate has been convicted for the slaying, but she won't be serving any additional time in prison.
Shelly Harmon pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in March, admitting she killed Pitts because she was upset Pitts was overdue on rent. But in a shocking plea deal, Harmon will not be required to serve any more time behind bars.
She had already served 20 years in prison for killing her ex-boyfriend Raymond F. Clerx in 1991, and although she was sentenced to another 20 years for killing Pitts, she was credited with time served in Clerx’s slaying.
“She’s got a golden ticket, and she got away with murder,” Pitts’ brother Paul Pitts Jr. told the Associated Press.
Pitts disappeared from a party outside Prescott, Arizona on Sept. 16, 1988.
Harmon’s own story of her whereabouts that night continued to change as the years went on, with Clerx serving as her alibi.
She told investigators she had never been at the party spot, then once claimed another roommate had killed Pitts.
“I never killed my roommate,” she once said. “I never wanted to kill anyone. I loved her dearly.”
But Harmon remained under suspicion, especially after she was arrested for killing Clerx.
Harmon—known then by her maiden name of Shelly Marie Norgard—reportedly admitted to killing her 24-year-old boyfriend after he had told her he planned to leave and take their dogs with him, the Associated Press reported in 1993.
She drove around with his decaying body in her car for two weeks before dumping him down a mine shaft when the smell became too intense.
Hikers later discovered the body because of the odor.
She agreed to plead guilty to second-degree murder in Clerx’s death and received a 20-year sentence as part of the plea deal, according to the news outlet.
While handing down the sentence, Yavapai County Superior Court Judge James Sult called the killing depraved and said she had treated her boyfriend “like garbage.”
For years, Pitts' slaying remained unsolved, but investigators took a new look at the case as her sentence was ending for Clerx's death, monitoring her recorded phone calls from jail.
Prosecutors believed she referenced Pitts' death in a call to her father, after he told her that he had never known what really happened.
“I had a moment,” she said, according to the AP. “I had a huge moment.”
Authorities believe she had been upset with Pitts because of money. Pitts had also allegedly shared that Harmon was pregnant against her wishes, further angering Harmon at the time.
On the day she went missing, Harmon had allegedly threatened to kill Pitts and even drove around looking for her, according to court documents obtained by the outlet.
After her release for Clerx’s murder, Harmon had assumed a new life outside of Carson City Nevada. There she had gotten married, found work managing rental properties and bookkeeping and made friends.
She was later arrested for Pitts' murder, but prosecutors had a difficult case to prove after a judge ruled that information related to Clerx’s killing would have to be excluded. Some of the records in the case were also incomplete and witnesses either didn’t clearly remember the time or had died in the years since, the Associated Press reports.
Prosecutors decided the best path forward was a plea deal that would finally give Pitts’ family the answers they had searched for.
“It weighed heavily on us, guaranteeing an outcome versus taking a chance at trial,” Dennis McGrane of the Yavapai County Attorney’s Office said.
Oxygen.com reached out to the attorney’s office, but has not yet received a response.
In court, Harmon said she had killed her roommate because she was angry that Pitts was behind on rent and had also overdrawn a bank account they shared.
She told the court she had gone looking for her roommate and the two got into a heated argument.
“I just lost it,” she said, adding that she hit Pitts against the ground until she died.
"I was thinking, ‘Oh, my God, she’s dead, she’s dead, and I killed her,'" she said.
Pitts family has said they found the story to be unbelievable.
“It was just to get out of jail,” Paul Pitts Jr. said.
Pitts’ mother, Carol, told the news outlet she hoped Harmon was haunted by the killing for the rest of her “miserable life.”
Harmon, who was credited with time served and was released, has reportedly returned to her life in Nevada.
“This is a very sad case all the way around, and it just needed to end,” her attorney Dwane Cates said.
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