CENTRAL FALLS, RI — On May 26, 1988, seven-year-old Michelle Norris took off with her two brothers to a nearby school playground. After a day of fun, the boys returned home and said they lost track of their sister. Four days later, Michelle turned up dead. To date, no one has been apprehended for her murder.
No one noticed anything out of the ordinary on the day Michelle vanished. It was a typical sunny afternoon in the Norris family’s busy suburban neighborhood of Central Falls.
All the local kids played at that school all the time. Michelle’s grandmother even kept an eye on them from her house on the same block. Suddenly, now, one of those children didn’t come back.
Once it broke that Michelle had gone missing, authorities flew into action, with neighbors and family members joining in a massive hunt for answers. After four frantic days, a searcher came across Michelle’s remains under a tree. She was naked and badly beaten. Her clothes lay neatly folded next to her body. She had suffered a horrific sexual assault, and died from asphyxiation.
The worst case scenario had come true. Then, as justice proved elusive, it got worse.
Investigators initially looked hard at William Norris, Michelle’s father, who no longer lived in the family home. Julie Harris said she split from William over his alleged alcoholism, but that he still visited Michelle about once a week.
In a note to the police, William wrote that he picked up Michelle from the playground and drove the child to her grandmother’s house, but he didn’t actually see her go inside.
William ended the note by stating that Michelle seemed distracted by a friend of hers across the street, who was on a porch with a man “who I didn’t know” — a claim that may have been specious.
On the new Investigation Discovery series Breaking Homicide, police Sergeant Derrick Levasseur — who grew up in Central Falls and personally knows many of the individuals involved in this tragedy — is joined by forensic psychologist Kris Mohandie to embark on a fresh pursuit of justice for Michelle Norris.
In the course of the episode, Lavasseur and Mohandie talk to Michelle’s mother, brothers, friends, local residents, and others with first-hand involvement in the case. Among the duo’s most stunning discoveries is the possible identity of that “man on the porch,” how dangerous he is, and how he may be the key to learning the ultimate truth about what happened to Michelle.
In the meantime, this case remains open and very active. If you have any information regarding the unsolved murder of Michelle Norris, please contact the Rhode Island State Police at (401) 444-1046.
For more on the Michelle Norris case, watch the “Little Girl Lost” episode of Investigation Discovery’s Breaking Homicide on ID GO now!
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Main photo: Michelle Norris [Rhode Island State Police]