After 19 years, will the killer be found?

Staff WritersFebruary 18, 2010 

— The three-judge panel settled one question when it declared that Gregory Taylor did not kill Jacquetta Thomas, but it raised others: Who did kill Thomas, and will her killer ever be found?

Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby said Wednesday that he was not certain what steps the prosecutor's office would now take.

Raleigh police, too, were guarded with their words.

"Historically, the Raleigh Police Department has not commented on jury verdicts or court decisions," Jim Sughrue, a spokesman, said in a prepared statement. "As with all cases, if anyone has additional information concerning the 1991 murder of Jacquetta Thomas, the department urges them to come forward."

Nineteen and a half years have passed since the body of Thomas, a 26-year-old who worked as a prostitute on some of Raleigh's toughest streets, was found partially nude and bludgeoned to death on the paved edge of a desolate cul-de-sac off of South Blount Street. Her skull and neck had been fractured, and she had been cut and stabbed on her neck, face and breasts.

Police quickly focused on Taylor and an acquaintance, Johnny Beck, as their prime suspects. A murder charge against Beck was eventually dropped, but Taylor went to trial, where a jury found him guilty.

Craig Taylor, a man in prison as a habitual felon, has claimed that he killed Thomas, but Willoughby has said that Craig Taylor has a mental illness and a terminal disease that have driven him to make false confessions.

Willoughby noted that Taylor had an extensive history of admitting guilt for crimes he couldn't have committed.

anne.blythe@newsobserver.com or 919 839-4948

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