Jury Finds Linwood Forte Guilty Of Rape, Murder In Nightstalker Cases
Posted September 30, 2003 6:06 a.m. EDT
GOLDSBORO, N.C. — It may have taken years to bring a Wayne County man to court, but it took Wayne County jurors took less than two hours of deliberations to find Linwood Earl Forte guilty of rape and murder.
In 1990, an elderly woman was raped. Less then two months later, 74-year-old Hattie Bonner was found raped and suffocated in her Goldsboro home.
In October 1990, police say an intruder broke into a home on East Holly Street home, stabbed 78-year-old retired Southern Bell executive Al Bowen, then raped and strangled his 76-year-old wife, Thelma. The suspect then torched their house. The local media deemed the unsolved murders as the "Nightstalker" cases.
Authorities did not have any leads until 2001, when a federal grant allowed the SBI crime lab to pull evidence from old, unsolved cases.
In 1996, Forte had been convicted of firing a shot into an occupied home. SBI agents were able to match DNA evidence from that crime to the three unsolved cases to Forte. Forte had never been questioned about the crimes.
The DNA evidence was so conclusive that the defense team rested their case without calling a single witness.
Forte's attorneys plan to put on a series of witnesses during the sentencing phase of the trial who will testify about his drug and alcohol problems. Prosecutors said they plan to seek the death penalty.