At the age of 7, Romarr Gipson made headlines as the youngest murder suspect in Chicago history. Gipson and an 8-year-old friend were accused (and ultimately acquitted) of raping and murdering 11-year-old Ryan Harris in a case that has been closed--but left many questions unanswered.
On Wednesday, the now 19-year-old Gipson was found guilty of attempted murder following a 2006 shooting at a Calumet Park gas station. The teen's gun jammed--and his victim lived. The verdict was the latest in a series of run-ins with the law that have spanned Romarr's life.
In 1998, the murder of young Ryan Harris was national news--and two young boys confessing to the crime made the story even bigger. Weeks after the confession, however, police discovered DNA evidence that linked the murder instead to a 29-year-old serial rapist, freeing the two boys.
Gipson was given a $2 million settlement from the city of Chicago, as the Chicago Sun-Times reports, but the trauma from the incident scarred him for life, according to his family.
Romarr's mother, Shannon Gipson, explained her son's problems to the Chicago Tribune in 2006:
The experience eight years ago has taken its toll on Romarr Gipson, who has had to seek professional help and take medication to deal with severe bouts of depression, his mother said.
There are times when he refuses to communicate, eat or sleep because of the false accusation, his mother said.
"Everybody needs to know that they messed him up when he was a 7-year-old," she said.
In the years since the Harris case, Gipson has been charged with cruelty to animals, possession of a stolen motor vehicle, drug possession, aggravated assault with a dangerous weapon and resisting arrest. He was also charged earlier this year with aggravated battery to an officer, according to the Sun-Times.
Floyd Durr, a serial rapist, ultimately pleaded guilty to the 1998 murder, though he has maintained his innocence over the years. An in-depth investigation into the murder by the Chicago Reader in 2006 also highlighted the many gaping holes in the story of Harris' death, including an interview with a medical examiner who believes the crime was not committed by just one person.
"I don't believe that the detectives put any words in those kids' mouths," a defense lawyer for Durr told the Reader regarding Romarr's confession. "Why are police going to pick on a seven- and an eight-year-old? If they just wanted to put the murder on someone, all they had to do was reach out the door of the station and grab some guys off the street in Englewood. Chances are two of them would be sex offenders, and one of them would be willing to confess to it."
Durr is currently serving a life sentence for murdering and sexually assaulting Harris.