Family, falsely accused honor slain Raleigh woman
Posted September 19, 2010 2:37 p.m. EDT
Updated September 19, 2010 11:04 p.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — Family of a slain Raleigh woman and the man falsely imprisoned for her murder held an interfaith vigil Sunday at the site where her body was found 19 years ago.
The vigil was held Sunday afternoon on a cul-de-sac at the end of South Blount Street. The body of Jacquetta LaShawn Thomas, 26, was found there on Sept. 26, 1991. She had been beaten to death.
Thomas' daughter, Sierra Pharr, was 5 years old when her mother was killed.
“That’s what makes this such a tragedy because I didn't get to know her, and the first time I actually seen a picture of her was when it was actually posted on the news,” Pharr said Sunday at the vigil.
Thomas' sister, Yolanda Littlejohn said holding the vigil wasn't easy, but she believes it was necessary so people remain aware of her sister’s death.
Greg Taylor, who spent nearly 17 years in prison after being convicted of Thomas' murder, also attended the vigil. Littlejohn has long supported Taylor's exoneration and testified to the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission that she believed that Taylor didn’t kill her sister.
“In my mind there was no way Greg Taylor did this to my sister,” Littlejohn said Sunday.
Taylor was arrested near the site of the vigil. On the day Thomas' body was found, he went to the area to retrieve his SUV, which was stuck in nearby woods.
Over the years, he maintained his innocence but exhausted all avenues for appeal. The Innocence Commission, though, found new evidence – including a revelation that a State Bureau of Investigation agent failed to report that a test for blood on Taylor's SUV was negative. A three-judge panel vacated his sentence in February, citing clear and convincing evidence that he was innocent.
Littlejohn said she and Taylor have since become close friends and she spoke of him at the vigil.
“I know it was tragic what happened to you, and you know that my heart went out to your family. But know that my family is still hurting because we don't know,” Littlejohn said.
Raleigh police have reopened the investigation into Thomas' slaying.
The vigil was organized by Raleigh-based Vigils Against Violence, along with Vigils for Healing, a Winston-Salem-based interfaith ministry that supports the loved ones of homicide victims.