NC Wanted: Authorities continue search for 1980 Durham County murder suspect
Posted November 28, 2015 10:22 p.m. EST
Updated November 28, 2015 11:20 p.m. EST
Durham, N.C. — A 13-year-old’s body was found in Durham County two months after she was abducted in 1980. Investigators have suspicions about a possible suspect but have not yet made an arrest in the case.
Hunters found Darlene Tilly’s body 8 miles from her home in Durham after the search following her disappearance. Authorities said she had been stabbed and beaten to death.
“She’s gone to be with the lord,” said Tilly’s father, Donnie. “She’s been there a while. She’s much better off.”
Investigators say Tilly left a baseball field in Durham—her last known location prior to disappearing—and took a short cut through the woods on her way home.
“Her body was found in an area known as the flats, which runs off Oxford Highway, about 60 to 70 feet off the Oxford Highway near Technica Parkway,” said Major Paul Martin of the Durham County Sheriff’s Office.
Martin was not assigned to the original investigation in 1980, but he is now working on Tilly’s case.
“What makes this case interesting is, the people who probably have the most knowledge of what happened to her were probably 12 to 15-year-old females at the time,” Martin said. “They are not yet 50 years old, so they’re still here.”
Martin said someone came forward with valuable information in 2008 and helped them establish a person of interest.
“We’ve had a person come forward to describe what actions he performed with her as a 13-year-old,” he said. “He may have approached several very young girls in a sexually inappropriate manner.”
Martin said the person also had ties to the local church community and that he once had an altercation with Tilly at camp.
“To protect the reputation of a community is not a reason to protect murderer,” Martin said. “To protect the reputation of a church is not a reason to protect a murderer, especially someone who may commit that crime numerous times.”
If anyone has information about the murder of Tilly, call the NC Wanted hotline at 1-866-439-2683.