030 - The Disappearance of Unique Harris
` Unique RaQuel-Leona Harris was born in Richmond, Virginia and was the first child of twenty-year old Valencia Harris. Unique’s father exited both of their lives within weeks of her birth and never came to know his daughter, nor be there for her. Valencia was a dedicated single mother, working hard to provide a life for Unique and being completely in love with her newborn child. Her name, Unique, came out of Valencia’s own astonishment over the beautiful baby she had created, with Valencia later saying her own personal reaction upon seeing Unique for the first time was a feeling of “I can’t believe I made this, I made this, this special baby.”
For the early part of Unique’s life, Valencia was single and mother and daughter embarked on their journey together. Valencia’s life revolved around Unique, and her love for her daughter was obvious to anyone who knew her. Valencia hardly ever put Unique down and raved about her beautiful, sweet and smart her daughter was.
Unique was described as being African American, standing 5’7” tall and weighing approximately 130 pounds. She has brown hair with auburn highlights and brown eyes. She has the names “Richard” and “U’Andre” tattooed on her lower back and her own name on her upper right arm. She has a mole on her upper lip and her ears are pierced. She is extremely nearsighted and wore glasses everywhere. When last seen she is said to have been wearing a white t-shirt, gray pants, a sixteen to twenty inch sterling silver necklace with a broken clasp secured by a safety pin and a matching earring and set with garnet beads.
When Unique was still young, a new man came into Valencia’s life and Unique became the older sister to her brother, Varndell and sister Ashley. Varndell and Ashley described their older sister as everything you’d want in an older sibling. She was kind and caring, she took care of them and looked out for them. Unique was described as having a big heart, a sentimental type who always wanted to make sure things were fun and loving for those around her. When holidays came around, or birthdays came up, Unique was right on top of it making preparation and ensuring that her family knew how much she cared. She would buy extra birthday cards in case someone forgot, she never wanted anyone to feel that they weren’t important.
Unique and her siblings would all go on to graduate from John Marshall High School in Richmond. Throughout their childhood and as they progressed into early adulthood, Unique flourished into a caring and sensitive person. Her younger brother, Varndell, would later say that it was Unique who held the family together and no matter what was going on in her life, her door was always open and she made certain that her family knew she’d do anything for them. As she grew older, Unique became a lovely woman who enjoyed crocheting and sewing. Described as a girly-girl, she began getting attention from men and eventually became a mother to two boys, U’Andre and Richard.
In 2006, Valencia moved north to the Washington area, with Unique remaining in Richmond with her boys. Unfortunately, Unique and her children’s father couldn’t make it work and separated. The boys, now 3 and 5, were approaching school age and Unique viewed the separation as an opportunity to make some changes for the better in her own life, as well as the life of her children. In the Summer of 2010, just a few short months before her disappearance, Unique moved up north to Washington DC to be close to Valencia and began making plans for her future. After looking at several education opportunities, Unique selected a vocational school and Valencia offered to provide child care so that she could attend school without having to worry about her schedule. Unique planned to take Massage Therapy classes and was supported by the receipt of financial aid. Much like during the early part of her life, Unique and Valencia were once again inseparable, seeing each other almost every day throughout the summer and early Fall.
Valencia’s father, Richard, came to visit in October of 2010. Unique adored her grandfather and even named her older son after him. On Friday, October 8th, Unique brought the boys to her mothers place and asked Richard to give them a haircut. As Richard cut their hair, Unique and Valencia talked and laughed in the other room. By the time it was all done with, the evening had set in and it had become dark out. Valencia had recently broken her foot and was unable to drive them home, so Richard volunteered to. Richard told Unique he would speak to her the next day and stayed in the car outside the apartment complex until she and her two boys entered, wanting to make sure they were safe. Unique couldn’t yet afford a car, and being a single mother putting herself through school, she ended up renting out an apartment in the 2400 Block of Hartford Street, SE.
An area with a high crime rate, Valencia didn’t like her daughter living there but also felt it was important to let Unique make her own choices. She also felt secure knowing that she lived only five minutes away and figured that if there were ever an emergency she would be able to get there quickly. Unique was determined to support herself and her children and though she understood Valencia’s concerns, she was focused on making it on her own. In 2010 alone there were 131 murders in the area surrounding her apartment complex, but Unique was unmoved and determined to make it work. She didn’t plan to stay there forever, and saw it only as temporary housing until she finished school and could afford a better apartment.
On Saturday, October 9th, Richard placed a call to Unique’s apartment as he told her he would. When Unique answered they chatted back and forth and she explained that Tayla Reed, one of Unique’s younger cousin’s, was spending the night with the boys and they were planning a movie marathon sleepover. Richard would later say that, during the call, he could hear the children laughing in the background and the popcorn popping up in the microwave. Unique ended the call by allowing Richard to say goodnight to the children, which he did. He told Unique that he would speak to her the next day, but this would be the last confirmed point of contact with Unique. Sometime during the night she would mysteriously vanish and her family would be left devastated.
On the morning of Sunday, October 10th, the children woke up to discover that Unique was not in the apartment. At first, they weren’t overly concerned but as time passed and Unique failed to appear, panic began to set in. At approximately 9am, Tayla called her mother, Tiffannee, and informed her of the situation. Tiffannee would later state “She told me they woke up and that Unique wasn’t there. I told her to calm down, that she probably just walked to the corner store.” Tiffannee placed several calls to Unique’s cell phone but received no answer. She wasn’t immediately concerned, assuming that Unique would be home and perhaps had left her cell phone behind. She was across town and couldn’t get there right away, but she called the apartment multiple times to check in with Tayla, hoping to hear that Unique had come home, but with each call she became more and more concerned. Tiffannee arrived at the apartment at approximately 3pm, the scheduled pickup time for Tayla, and when she discovered that Unique was still not there she phoned Valencia who was worried, but not overly so. The bus routes around the area could be highly undependable and they considered the possibility that Unique had run off to do an errand and found herself stranded somewhere waiting on the bus.
Richard went straight to the apartment and asked the children if they’d heard or seen anything strange the previous night. Unique had put them all to bed, and while the boys hadn’t noticed anything, Tayla said she had heard a man’s voice during the night, but she couldn’t be certain that it wasn’t just the television from the apartment next door. It should be noted that this detail about the voice is highly debated. There are news articles in which it states that Tayla heard a voice, there are also articles which say no one heard anything and ones which allege that the boys heard a man. It’s a very controversial detail of the case which, ultimately, doesn’t lend much assistance to finding answers. Tayla went home with her mother and Richard brought Unique’s two boys over to Valencia’s for the time being. He went back to the apartment to get some clothes for the boys and it was at this point that Richard noticed several details which gave him cause for concern. Richard found Unique’s purse hanging off the arm of a chair in the dining room, which immediately made him suspicious of the theory that she had gone out on an errand without her purse. Heading into her bedroom, Richard’s concern transformed into panic when he found her glasses folded up and laying on a pillow.
Unique had developed problems with her eyesight early in life. In fourth grade she needed glasses, and as the years had gone on, her vision had become increasingly worse. She was extremely nearsighted and is reported to have never gone anywhere without wearing her glasses. Family members have said in subsequent interviews that she couldn’t even read the numbers on her alarm clock from her bed without wearing her glasses. She would often sleep in her bed with her glasses neatly folded on the pillow beside her, just as Richard found them that afternoon. The tremendous cause for concern came out of these glasses as, it wasn’t unlikely that Unique had chosen to go somewhere without her glasses, instead it was almost impossible that she could have navigated her way anywhere without them.
Police were notified shortly after Richard’s discover. In Washington DC the police direct missing persons to the Missing Person’s Unit. Ultimately, it is not considered a crime to disappear and so this unit makes specific notes about whether or not the missing person is considered endangered, or if the disappearance may have been involuntary. They gather photos of the missing person and denote and marks which may distinguish them, such as tattoos or moles, like Unique’s. Interestingly, with Unique, her case was not passed on to the Missing Peron’s Unit, instead going straight to a criminal investigative unit. From day one, essentially, Police suspected that this was not a simple missing person’s case and that someone else and possible foul play were involved. Aquita Brown, a spokesperson for the police department, stated “There is no evidence that suggests that Ms. Harris voluntarily left her home.”
Joel Maupin, commander of the 7th Precinct, when asked about what made this case go to the criminal division, stated “We felt it would be very odd that she would disappear. There was no indication of foul play, the play wasn’t disheveled, it wasn’t torn up. You do have cases where people just leave but we didn’t feel that was the situation here. It’s unusual.” Valencia would later say “It just didn’t sit right, for her to leave those children alone at home, especially when I live five or so minutes from her. Someone came in there and took her out in the middle of the night while my grandsons and niece were still asleep.” Investigators combed over Unique’s apartment and made several discoveries which they found to be odd. Outside of her glasses being left on the pillow of her bed, where she put them every night, the bed itself did not appear to be slept in. Though her purse was present, her cellphone was missing as were her key to the apartment as well as the key to Valencia’s house. It is unknown whether or not these keys were on the same chain, though it’s considered likely. An interesting detail is that Tayla opened the door to the apartment to let her mother in, therefore it is unknown whether or not the door had been locked. If it was, considering the missing keys, Unique would have had to have used her key to lock the door once she was outside of the apartment. If not, it may indicate that Unique exited the apartment but wasn’t planning to go very far.
Considering the condition of the apartment, and Unique’s knowledge of the danger of the area she lived in, Police considered it unlikely that she had opened the door to a stranger during the night. This led them to believe that Unique likely wasn’t abducted from the apartment, but likely coaxed out of it by someone she knew or trusted. Investigators were perplexed early on, trying to decide if someone had managed to talk Unique out of her apartment or if perhaps she’d run into someone after she’d left it of her own volition. Multiple theories were considered including that Unique may have brought out the trash and been abducted by someone while she was outside, but again her glasses remain a key piece of evidence which decrease the likelihood that she elected to leave the apartment. The evidence simply didn’t add up for detectives as if she had left of her own volition, why did she leave her glasses behind? If she had been abducted, why would she have her cellphone and keys with her? The mystery thickened when police discovered a chilling detail about Unique’s time in her new apartment.
In 2010, there were 36 violent crimes and 52 property crimes reported to police within 1,000 feet of Unique’s apartment building. According to an interview with Valencia, Unique had witnessed a murder from the window of her apartment complex. This detail has never been sufficiently confirmed, despite a great deal of online investigators trying to figure out whether or not its true, and if so, who the victim was. Valencia stated “Unique called me just emotional about what was unfolding and when she told me that she was looking out the window, my immediate response to her was “Get away from the window! Get away from the window!” The incident is said to have taking place in a parking lot across the street from the apartment building, and during an interview with Lisa Ling, Valencia pointed out the approximate site of the crime.
The murder that Unique allegedly witnessed has been the source of a great deal of speculation. If indeed she witnessed this crime, it would certainly raise the likelihood that the person or persons involved in committing the crime may have wanted to eliminate a possible witness. Unique isn’t known to have discussed what she saw with anyone other than Valencia, but it’s been considered possible that she could have mentioned it to a friend or been overheard at some point, which could have led to her being identified by the responsible person as a threat. Unfortunately, without more information in regard to this, it’s impossible to know for sure. While investigators have been asked about a possible connection here, they have remained tight lipped about the details of the case and any possible suspects.
Several details about Unique’s disappearance have remained mysterious as a result of investigators keeping things under wraps. It is known that Unique’s cell phone was missing, but whether or not the phone was pinged in order to try and get a location is unknown. In an interview, Valencia stated “Police would not fully track her phone” but little other information is available as to whether or not this is accurate. In addition to this, the Charley Project page for Unique contains the detail that the last time the cell phone received a call was at 3:00am on October 10th, which would mean that a call was placed to her phone hours after she put the children to bed, and six hours before she was discovered to be missing. Who placed the call, whether or not Unique answered and whether or not this is related to her disappearance has never been addressed by investigators publicly. There has also been speculation that Unique’s cell phone continued to ring for weeks after her disappearance, which would suggest that it was being charged, but this has never been confirmed by any legitimate source and may simply be rumor. Whether or not Unique had gotten acquainted with any of her neighbors or knew anyone nearby who she may have felt safe talking to late at night is unknown.
Over the years, a few details about the investigation have trickled out or been leaked to the public. It has been reported that Unique’s ex, and the father to her children, still living in Richmond, Virginia, submitted to a polygraph test and passed it. In addition, there appears to have been a man that Unique is alleged to have possibly been seeing romantically. Police did look into this man, he is said to have been attended a US Job Corps program in West Virginia at the time and has an alibi which rules him out as a probable suspect.
There has been some animosity between Valencia and the Police since Unique’s disappearance. Valencia has been very outspoken with her feelings that not enough has been done and she feels that, with all the time that has passed, investigators have moved away from the case. Several months after she vanished, Valencia felt that not enough was being done and the police department put her in touch with the Black and Missing Foundation which was started in order to provide assistance to the families of missing persons. Through their work, they were able to produce fliers and garner more attention to this case which, in the eyes of many, has not received the attention it deserves. It has been said that it initially took two week after Unique’s disappearance for a missing person’s flier to circulate, and in the years since she vanished, more than seven investigators have taken over the case.
In the nearly eight years since Unique disappeared there have been no new discoveries nor answers found. Unique seemingly vanished, without a trace, from the comfort of her own apartment while her children and niece slept in the next room. So what happened to Unique Harris? Often times, in cases with such a mysterious question and so few facts available, speculation can run rampant. There are certainly theories about Unique’s disappearance, though the evidence provided can be extremely thing. However, when you’re dealing with such a bizarre case of someone vanishing, the evidence is almost always hard to grab a hold of. Among the numerous theories out there, there are a few which have risen to the top as the most likely. Interestingly, this is one of the only missing person cases I’ve ever examined in which Police have not theorized that the victim chose to leave of her own volition. However, some have speculated that this could be possible.
Therefore, the first theory is that Unique Harris elected to leave. This theory doesn’t have very much support with even official investigators stating that they don’t believe this is the case. Proponents of this theory point to the fact that Unique’s keys were missing, along with her cell phone, and they believe it’s possible she left the apartment of her own volition and chose to go elsewhere. Whether or not she intended to return, or ran into foul play along with the way is up for debate amongst those who follow this theory.
The second theory is that Unique Harris fell victim to the person or persons who committed the crime she is alleged to have witnessed. Whether or not this incident took place is impossible to know for certain. While Valencia stated that Unique called her and told her as it was taking place there has never been any confirmation from a law enforcement source. If indeed Unique witnessed a violent crime, it isn’t unlikely to imagine that the perpetrator may not have wanted a witness out there. It’s purely speculative whether or not Unique mentioned this incident to anyone other than Valencia, but many believe that she may have told someone and once the rumor mill got moving, a person connected to the crime may have found out and elected to strike at Unique and eliminate a witness. An extensive amount of research has been conducted by online investigators to try and determine which crime may have been witnessed. Many people have dedicated hours to pouring over police files and crimes which took place during the five weeks Unique lived in her apartment but no one has yet been able to pinpoint a crime which fits the bill leaving this as a frustrating and confusing theory.
The third theory is that Unique may have been the victim of a random act. Some have speculated that it’s possible Unique may have left her apartment that night, in order to take out the trash or maybe even smoke a cigarette, though it has never been confirmed whether or not she was a smoker, and that during this period of time she came upon someone who abducted or murdered her. Of course, the question of why she would have left her glasses behind is a huge contradiction to this theory. If indeed Unique elected to leave the apartment, why she would leave behind the glasses that she desperately needed doesn’t make a great deal of sense. Also, the idea that she would have left behind something she needed, but have taken her cell phone with her is highly questionable.
The final theory is that Unique was abducted by someone she knew, or trusted, for reasons unknown. Many believers of this theory point to the state of her apartment. There was no sign of a struggle, no strange fingerprints, no blood and no one reported hearing a struggle nor any screams. To many, this suggests that whoever may have been responsible for getting Unique out of her apartment, was likely someone she knew and trusted. Whether this person knocked on the door, or called her and had some method by which to get her to leave is unknown, and what motive the suspect may have had is yet to be uncovered but many believe Unique fell victim to someone she knew. In addition to this, Unique was known to be a very caring and kind woman, and many have speculated that her empathy for others may have been used to lure her into a dangerous situation. The unknown state of whether or not the door had been locked only adds to the speculation.
The disappearance of Unique Harris is a complicated case full of confusing details, thin evidence and rampant speculation. It has been nearly eight years since Unique Harris kissed her two sons and put them to bed, vanishing sometime during the night. Very little new information, if any at all, has been revealed and investigators remained frustrated by the lack of development. Unique’s sons, 5 and 3 at the time of her disappearance, are now twelve and ten, and have grown up never knowing what happened to their mother. They live now with their biological father, and are visited often by their grandmother who loves them dearly, but acknowledges even they cannot fill the void left by Unique.
Valencia continues to search for her daughter, swearing that she will not stop until the answers are found. Over the years she has held multiple candlelight vigils at the apartment complex and gone to great extents to draw attention to this baffling case. She frequently drives passed the complex hoping for anything that may remind her of Unique. After the disappearance, Valencia moved much of Unique’s person belongings into a storage unit which she visits often to feel close to her daughter. In her home she keeps a bottle of Avon’s Bali Bliss lotion, which Unique wore every day. She often sniffs the scent, and for just a second, feels like her daughter is still there. When asked what she believes about Unique after all these years, Valencia responded “Until somebody brings me proof that my child is dead we gotta keep on looking for her because in my mind she’s out there somewhere."
[Thoughts & Theories]
The disappearance of Unique Harris has been a one of my most requested cases since I began doing Trace Evidence. I’ve been researching it for a long time, despite the fact that there isn’t a great deal of information available. It’s a highly frustrating case in that the police have remained very quiet about the progress of the investigation, and as is often the case when that happens, a lot of rumors have circulated. Over time, many of those rumors have been passed off as fact which only adds to the confusion and makes the truth more difficult to discern. At the end of the day, Unique was a lovely, twenty-four year old mother of two who seemingly vanished into thin air from within the walls of her own apartment. Her mother, Valencia, has been absolutely shattered by the loss of her daughter, but her dedication to the cause and her extreme focus on finding out what happened to Unique is simultaneously inspiring and heart breaking.
There is something about cases where mothers disappear that really gets to me. It’s difficult to put into words, but the idea of children growing up never knowing so many intricate details about their mother, to go through life experiences and to not have her there to see them and support them is overwhelmingly sad. Unique was a kind hearted woman who loved her family endlessly. Her care for her children was second to none, and yet these two boys were so young when she vanished that most of their memories of her are from pictures they’ve seen and stories they’ve been told. Her chance to raise her boys and be there for them was stolen away from her, and nearly eight years later, we know almost as little as we knew in the days and weeks following her disappearance.
Surprisingly, for a case where a mother vanished without a trace in such a baffling manner, there was, initially, severely limited media coverage. In the years since, Unique has gotten more attention, but early on when that coverage would have been most helpful, she was somehow left out of most major news outlets. At the time of her disappearance, her name was mentioned in the arguments against what is known as “Missing White Woman Syndrome.” It seems apparent that, in many cases, a missing African American woman, or any other race, typically receives less coverage than a missing white woman. Though the discussion on this topic is highly controversial and often debated, it has been suggested that not only does a missing white woman receive more coverage, but she receives a higher intensity of coverage as well. In the case of Unique Harris, it seems quite apparent that she didn’t receive the coverage she deserved.
So what happened to Unique Harris? There are theories, of course, but I wanted to quickly address something. As I’ve stated previously, there are a lot of rumors out there, and a great deal of speculation. During the course of this episode I’ve worked hard to give you as many of the facts that are available, and to make you aware when a detail is debated or can’t be proven for sure. One of the prime theories in this case revolves around Unique allegedly witnessing a murder, and for many, the belief is that there is likely a connection between that murder and Unique’s disappearance. Unfortunately, there is nothing solid which proves she witnessed anything, and the police have never directly addressed this rumor, even if only to dismiss it. It’s a strange facet of this case, but it’s also one of the most popular theories out there.
The first theory, as if often the case with missing persons cases, is that Unique Harris left of her own volition. This is typically a theory put forward by investigators and argued against by the public, but in this case, it’s actually the opposite. The police have been extremely open and honest about the fact that they don’t believe Unique chose to leave and that foul play was likely involved in her disappearance. Most proponents of this theory point to the condition of Unique’s apartment. When authorities arrived they found everything in order, no clear signs of a struggle and, as far as we are aware, no forensic evidence to suggest anyone else had entered the apartment that night.
Whether or not the children heard anything is, unfortunately, up for debate. However, even if they did, it doesn’t seem as though they led to any real assistance in this case. From what we know, none of the neighbors reported anything out of the ordinary and no one saw Unique in the area during the time that she is believed to have gone missing. For someone to choose to run off and disappear, especially in this modern era, that takes a lot of planning and more than likely a decent amount of money. Unique was financially strapped, had a lot of loved ones nearby and was enrolled in school. This isn’t the profile of someone who is looking to run off. You also have to factor in that Unique specifically moved to Washington to be close to her mother and to give her boys a new start, as well as herself. It doesn’t make a lot of sense that five weeks after doing this she’d change her mind and decide to just run off somewhere. Also, keep in mind that Unique didn’t have a car so unless someone helped her, she was completely dependent on public transportation and much more likely to have been spotted.
If there is something we know about Unique for certain, it’s how incredibly important family was to her. The idea that this loving woman who cared so deeply for her family, especially her two young sons, would choose to leave in the middle of the night doesn’t make a great deal of sense. In addition to that, if she made the choice to leave, she did so on a night where she not only had her sons, but also her young cousin. It doesn’t logically make sense to me that Unique would have left them in the apartment alone, where anything could have happened to endanger them. For me, this entire theory is unlikely just based on the evidence we do have, which is that Unique’s glasses were left behind. Multiple times during my research I found quotes from people attesting to how bad her eyesight was. It seems incredibly unlikely that someone who can barely see a clock a few inches from her face without her glasses is going to choose to run off, in the middle of the night, without them.
Some people have pointed to items which are missing, which would include her cell phone and her keys. I can honestly follow the line of thought here, but it seems more likely that if indeed Unique did step outside of her apartment it wasn’t with the plan to run off. She could have gone outside for any number of reasons, though I still don’t understand why she’d have left her glasses behind. I know that some people will leave their glasses behind if they are just doing something simple like throwing out the trash, but then why would Unique have taken her cell phone with her also? While I completely understand how this is a theory, I simply don’t think there is enough information to point in this direction. Unique was beginning a new life, was generally considered to be happy and hopeful, showed no outward signs of wanting to get away and according to every person in her life there is no way she would have chosen to leave her children behind. Factor in that in nearly eight years there has never been a single sighting of her and this theory becomes incredibly unlikely.
The second theory is that Unique Harris fell victim to someone as a result of the murder she allegedly witnessed. The details here are few and far between, but according to Valencia, Unique called her and told her that she was witnessing a murder from her apartment window. Valencia alleges that she told Unique to get away from the window in case the perpetrator noticed her watching. Remember that Unique lives in a very bad neighborhood with a lot of violent crimes happening around her, so it isn’t completely impossible that this actually happened. The problem comes in when there’s no way to actually prove it.
Many people have latched onto this theory, even without the ability to prove that there was a murder which Unique witnessed. According to this theory, Unique either told someone what she saw, or the person or persons involved in the crime saw her watching. Either way, it follows that, in an attempt to eliminate a witness, Unique may have been targeted. Unique had lived in her apartment building for only five weeks prior to her disappearance, and despite their best efforts, no one has been able to lock down a murder that took place near her building, during that time, that she may have witnessed. Police haven’t commented on it, which is rather odd, but ultimately we can’t know for sure. While I totally understand this theory, there are a lot of holes in it.
If indeed Unique witnessed this murder, you’d have to wonder how the killer or killers found out who she was. Beyond that, it was obvious that no one attacked Unique inside the apartment and so they’d have had to have a way to get her outside where they could attack her. There is the possibility that someone could have gained access to her apartment and gotten her to leave quietly and without a struggle by threatening the children, but then why would he allow her to bring her cell phone with her? There are too many questions here and no enough evidence or information either way to really know. Another factor about this that I find bothersome is that, if the killer knew Unique had witnessed this murder, he likely could have simply threatened her to keep her mouth shut… but he’d already know she did. If he didn’t see her talking to police, if he hadn’t been questioned, if he had no indication that she was going to say anything, it’s a pretty brazen act to murder another person so close to where you’d already killed someone.
This is one of those theories that’s just so strongly based on circumstantial evidence, and really the statement of one person. I know how desperately Valencia wants to get her daughter back, and I can see absolutely no reason why she would make up a story about a murder. Unfortunately, there just isn’t anything solid to bank on this too strongly. It’s a possibility, but I can’t say much more beyond that because without evidence or solid information, it’s just as likely to be a rumor as it is to be a fact.
The third theory is that Unique may have become the victim of a random act of violence. This theory has grown more in popularity since her disappearance. While, initially, people immediately thought that Unique was abducted from her apartment, there is now a common belief that she may have left her apartment that night for any number of reasons: taking out the trash or grabbing a quick smoke, and that during this time, someone may have come upon her and abducted her. I could certainly see this happening. If Unique stepped out, she could have brought her phone with her either to make a call, or in case she needed to make a call, and taken her keys to lock a deadbolt and secure the children in the apartment while she was gone.
Knowing the area she lived in, it isn’t outside of the realm of possibility that she could have been attacked outside. Even if it was only a plan to mug her that just went too far. The part about this theory that absolutely baffles me is the absence of a body. Random acts of violence in major cities don’t typically include the suspect removing the body from the scene of the crime and finding somewhere to dispose of it. Some theorists have considered the possibility that Unique may have been randomly abducted and moved into sex trafficking and, sadly, this is possible. Considering the amount of disappearances in her area, and violent crimes linked to drugs, in 2010, it can’t be ruled out that the reason Unique has never been found is because she was taken away. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot to work with here. The same questions come up, as in all of the theories, such as why she left her glasses behind and the fact that no one saw or heard anything. I absolutely believe this is a theory that needs to be looked at, and I am sure has been, but the startling lack of evidence makes it difficult to put a lot of faith in. Although I can’t say for sure, I think that Unique being attacked or abducted by someone at random is at least much more likely than the concept that she may have left of her own volition.
This leads us to the final theory, that whatever happened to Unique Harris involved someone she knew and trusted. Unique was new to the area, having only lived in her apartment building for five weeks. During that time she was working towards getting into school and setting her boys up for school. Being that she was known as a kind and compassionate person, it isn’t unlikely to imagine that she may have met some of her neighbors or gotten to know some of the people in her area. From store clerks to bus drivers, there is a high likelihood that she interacted with multiple people on a daily basis, any of which may have developed a bond of friendship or trust with her.
An interesting detail of this case is that a polygraph was given to a man that Unique may have had a relationship with. The information is sparse, outside of the fact that he passed the test and had an alibi for the night she vanished, but this opens the door to the possibility that Unique could have made friends and developed relationships with others. One interesting detail that has never been explored is her life on the internet. We don’t know how deeply investigators looked into this aspect of her life, but it’s certainly possible that Unique could have been using an online dating site or visiting forums or sites where she may have met someone in her area and developed a closeness with this person. Knowing the kind of woman she was, if someone she knew had called her, or knocked on her apartment door, asking for help, she’d likely have been willing to do what she could. It wouldn’t have been difficult for someone she trusted to have lured her out and have abducted or murdered her.
This theory all goes towards motive, and though we don’t have one, there are a myriad of possibilities. From someone who was interested in her, but felt rejected to a friend who was looking to make money and hoped to rob her. There are a vast amount of possibilities here, but judging from the evidence we do have, it makes the most sense to me that Unique didn’t feel threatened by this person and didn’t have her guard up. She was obviously preparing for bed that night, as her glasses were placed on her pillow the way she left them every night when she went to sleep. Police list her last known time of being in the apartment as 10pm, and she was officially reported missing the next afternoon, but was known to be gone by 9am. That leaves an eleven hour window during which time anyone could have abducted her, and then had plenty of time to take her out of town or find a place to dispose of her body.
If you’ve ever driven to Washington DC then you’re aware that, surrounding DC itself, there are large sections of farmland and forestry, rivers and less often traveled areas. Its certainly possible that someone could have coaxed her out of her apartment, abducted or murdered her, and then traveled to one of the areas outside of Washington to dispose of her body. The perpetrator would have had plenty of time to do this and get back into town before anyone even noticed that she was missing. Police obviously dumped her phone logs, so they are aware of who called her within the hours of her disappearance and one would have to assume they spoke to these people in order to establish an alibi. Ultimately, I don’t believe that Unique’s disappearance was a random event, and I don’t think she’d have gone willingly out of her apartment for someone she’d never met or didn’t trust. She was a bright young woman who was well aware of the dangerous area she was living in. To me, the most likely scenario is that someone in Unique’s life knows what happened to her, and utilized their closeness to her to take advantage of her when she wasn’t expecting it. In most crimes, the perpetrator has some connection to the victim and I don’t believe it’s any different here. Unique may have been lured out to help a friend, grabbed her phone and keys and had no idea the incredibly dangerous situation she was wandering into. To me, this is the most likely theory when all of the very thin evidence is laid out.
The Disappearance of Unique Harris is a mindboggling case. Very little evidence ads to the level of frustration, and so many details contradict each other to the point that almost every angle you can explore leads to a dead end. Regardless of what those of us who have researched it may believe, the answers are out there somewhere. There is an incredibly high likelihood that the person who may have answers is still out there, and may even be living in the same area from which Unique vanished. Her family has been devastated by her loss and struggles each and every day to find solace in the hope that someday their questions will be answered.
A beautiful, kind hearted, loving mother, sister and daughter vanished from her apartment while her children and young cousin were having a movie marathon sleepover. Her apartment shows no signs of a struggle and her necessary glasses were left behind, on the pillow of a bed she never got to sleep in that night. The only items missing were her cell phone and her keys. Eight years later, we are no closer to finding the answers than we were the morning she was reported missing and for those who knew and loved her, each of those days has been incredibly hard to face. Perhaps some day the answers will come, and the person or persons involved will face justice for their part in this utterly baffling crime. Maybe then her two sons might grow up in a world where they can believe that the people involved paid the price for what they had done.