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Motel Clerk's Slaying Solved After 26 Years

Posted June 12, 2007

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— Police said Tuesday they used modern fingerprint technology and old-fashioned detective work to crack an unsolved homicide from 1981.

Everett Julious Alston, 64, assaulted Clyde Deward Sykes on May 3, 1981, causing injuries that led to Sykes’ death five days later, police said Tuesday.

Alston died of natural causes in 2000.

"It's a great feeling. We never close a murder investigation out," said Kent Sholar, interim chief of the Raleigh Police Department. "It's the oldest (unsolved murder) in Raleigh.

The announcement also was a relief to Sykes' family, who held out hope for more than a quarter century that his murder would be solved.

"We just have to commend the Raleigh police for never giving up," said his sister, Mary Ann Sides.

Sykes, 41, who had been working as the motel's night clerk, was found beaten and severely injured in Room 117 of the Howard Johnson’s Motor Lodge at 2723 Capital Blvd., police said. He died five days later as a result of his injuries.

A piece of concrete wrapped in a towel was located outside Room 129 and was determined to be the murder weapon.

A witness reported seeing a man matching Alston's description carrying a large object wrapped in a bedspread, police said, and a television and a bedspread stolen from the hotel were later discovered abandoned near Capital Boulevard.

The television had been taken from Room 336, where it had been forcibly removed from its locking stand, and the bedspread had been taken from Room 337, police said.

Other witnesses reported seeing a man they thought to be suspicious at various locations around the motel during the night Sykes was assaulted, police said.

Police have investigated the case since 1981, and detectives have reviewed it on numerous occasions since then. In March 2006, the Detective Division’s Major Crimes Task Force initiated another review of the slaying.

As part of the review, detectives requested that the City-County Bureau of Identification re-examine the fingerprint evidence collected during the initial investigation. Within three weeks, the CCBI told detectives that fingerprints obtained in rooms 336 and 117 had been identified as those of Alston.

The print match was obtained using the latest technology and techniques, including capabilities that were not available until recently.

"It certainly boosts our confidence in the technology when we see technology working, and it's also a motivator to try to solve other cases through the same type of technology," CCBI Director Sam Pennica said.

A criminal history check determined that Alston had a lengthy record of arrests for violent crimes in multiple states, and it showed that he was arrested in Durham on May 12, 1981.

If Alston had been alive, the Major Crimes Task Force concluded, probable cause would exist to issue an arrest warrant charging him with Sykes' death. Robbery was the likely motive for the slaying, police said.

The results of the review were submitted to former members of the Major Crimes Task Force, including retired investigators who had been involved in the initial investigation of the case, and the determination of the task force was validated. The evidence was then presented to the Wake County District Attorney’s Office, which concurred with the police department’s conclusions.

Although Alston will never be charged with the slaying, Sides said her family doesn't feel they have been denied justice.

"We don't have to go through a trial. We don't have to look at this man. We know that all is well," she said. "We had to learn to forgive this person a long time ago, or we would not have been able to live. You can't live with hate and bitterness."

Raleigh still has 16 unsolved murders, the oldest of which dates to 1994.

In that case, 17-year-old Beth Ellen Vinson, an aspiring Broadway dancer from Goldsboro, was found stabbed to death in a drainage ditch off Capitol Boulevard. Vinson had moved to Raleigh just a four weeks earlier.

The FBI brought national attention to that case last year.


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  • angelstar Jun 13, 2007

    I agree with Lightfoot3 - we don't know if the accused (and he is only accused since he is deceased and did not stand trial) has sought forgiveness or not - only he and God knows. As a witness and one of the last to check in the hotel that night, I am glad for the family that this brings some closure. Folks should know that members of the Raleigh investigating unit would contact me every 5 years or so to question me, and that let me know that they were still doing everything possible to solve this case. Good job, RPD!

  • Lightfoot3 Jun 13, 2007

    I'm glad this case is solved, even though the criminal is already dead.

    A little country store near the house I grew up in had its store owner murdered in the 1970s. Never was solved.

    For those that think this dude's in hell, he had plenty of time to find Jesus. He just might be greeting some fellow spook believers at those pearly gates.

  • Section25 Jun 13, 2007

    It is not about being bored, it is about that nagging feeling in the back of your head, you want to solve the puzzle, you want to give peace to the family.
    The FBI put out a monthly bulletin and one part is featuring an old cold case with details and info and asking for help. Perhaps it matches another crime somewhere else or someone has heard something that would not necessarily connect it without this. It is not about being bored. It is about never giving up.

  • tmp1 Jun 12, 2007

    Anyone else think it's odd that the FBI looked into a 16 year-old case? are they as bored as the RPD now?

  • ladyblue Jun 12, 2007

    Before closing Mr stoney let me say I am sorry for the loss of your brother years ago. Living on the other side of louisburg (wararenton)and driving to and from fayetteville, we used to stop at your brothers store. A lot has changed since then. I had forgotten that time until you brought it up. It would be nice if they could use dna to find your brothers killer. My daddy always promised us we'd stop at the store after we made it out of the raleigh traffic. My daddy liked his gas prices and we got a chance to stretch our legs. Small world.

  • ladyblue Jun 12, 2007

    This was a pretty decent forum until one bad apple has to spoil the whole thing. I guess the person who told us to shut our traps must be studying or working in criminology forensics I just hope that's not the language she uses when she works or studies. I think more states will set up special units to work cold case files. Angora, I also hope if I ever need a forensic ciminologist it will not be you.I guess in your studies you knew that forensic derives from the latin world meaning FORUM which we know means suitable for public debate. Better go back to your books.

  • stoney Jun 12, 2007

    at that time, it was eight miles north of raleigh. the wcso in
    vestigated it. Robert Pleasant was the sheriff back then.
    thanks for caring.

  • ladybug467 Jun 12, 2007

    Stoney, I am sorry for the loss of your brother. I think the story is talking about Raleigh only and back then that area wouldn't have been "in" Raleigh. Anyone else have any ideas?

  • Elibeth Jun 12, 2007

    Your sins will find you out!

  • gopanthers Jun 12, 2007

    I'm currently in the Bay Area visiting and there has been some talk of reopening the case on the Zodiac Killer just because of Modern Day Technology. That happened in the late 60's and early 70's. The last time the Zodiac has ever been head from was in 1978 (I believe) and it was the San Francisco Chronicle that heard from him by letter. This should be very interesting if they do re-open that case.