Did Facebook photo trigger murder?

Last week, Tony Harris, a 50-year-old electronics repairman, uploaded a photo to his Facebook page - something different from his standard fare of videos and memes and images of his three children.

This one showed his wife, Amber Crane, grinning up at the camera, clutching thick stacks of cash in both hands. More money sat piled in her lap.

moneymoney
About a week ago, Tony Harris of Southwest Philly posted this image of his fiancee, Amber Crane, on his Facebook page. It was done as a joke. Police believe it may have tempted three teens to do a home invasion robbery.

"I misplaced $60,000.00. I hope my wife didn't go shopping with it," the caption joked.

"Stop playing," a friend wrote back.

Precisely a week later about 11:30 at night, police said, three young men walked into his home on the 1100 block of South Ruby Street in Kingsessing, where he has lived for decades. Where he always kept his door unlocked.

Two confronted Harris in the living room, where his two youngest children were sitting on the couch Monday night.

One held a gun to his wife's head in the kitchen.

"Where's the money?" they demanded, over and over.

As the intruders ransacked the house, Harris insisted he didn't have any money, family members said Tuesday.

Then one of the three shot Harris in the head.

He clung to life for just over eight hours at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. He was pronounced dead early Tuesday morning.

On Tuesday, Harris' family gathered at his home - where his blood still stained the front steps. And they puzzled over that Facebook post, which they said they believed had cost him his life.

Homicide Capt. James Clark said police were aware of the post, and said it was "possible" it was connected to the case. But he cautioned that detectives were "still very early in the investigation."

Harris' family said they believe someone must have seen that photo, with those stacks of cash, and figured he had come into money. Someone must have figured they could take it from him, they said.

But Harris' nephew Anthony Fleming said the post was a joke. The stacks of cash were simply piles of $1 bills, with $20s on top to make them seem far more valuable than they were, Fleming said.

Clark described the intruders as three masked men between 17 and 19 years old. He asked for the public's help in solving the murder, and encouraged anyone with information on the crime to call the Homicide Unit, at 215-686-3334.

Clark said the entire encounter inside Harris' house took only minutes.

Neighbors described Harris as a beloved figure in the neighborhood. They would see him outside, sitting on the porch with his three children, ages 5, 2 and 10 months. They would come to him when their phones or printers broke - he was a whiz with electronics and repaired computers out of his home.

On Monday, they showed up at the birthday party he threw for his oldest daughter, who had just turned 5.

Hours later, they watched in horror as police officers carried Harris' limp form down his front steps and into a waiting patrol car.

"Tony didn't deserve that," said Brenda Sills, who lives across the street.

She said he had helped care for the neighborhood's children - teaching them how to use computers and buying treats when ice cream trucks rolled down the block. When he had children of his own, Sills said, Harris sold his computer store on Lancaster Avenue to be closer to them and work from home.

On Tuesday, confetti from his daughter's birthday party still dotted the street.

Fleming said his uncle wanted better things for himself and his family. He had started a new business, selling cellphone plans online, and had hoped to make enough to pay off back taxes, fix his aging house up, and send his children to a good school.

"He was a really genuine guy. He really wanted the best for his family," Fleming said. "And those young kids killed him. They had no remorse, and they killed him."

awhelan@philly.com

215-854-2961 @aubreyjwhelan

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