FORREST CITY — DNA samples link an Indiana inmate to the rape and murder of a 19-year-old mother in eastern Arkansas more than a decade ago, police said Wednesday.
Authorities plan to extradite Anthony Johnson to Arkansas, where he is expected to face charges of capital murder, rape and kidnapping in the death of Tawana Blunt, Forrest City Police Chief E.P. Reynolds said.
Blunt had been living at her Forrest City apartment for about two weeks in September 2000 when her body was found, Reynolds said at a news conference. She had been raped, tortured and strangled, he said. He did not provide details.
The teenager had a 2-year-old daughter who was staying with relatives the night Blunt was killed, her family said.
Blunt got off work at a restaurant about 1:30 a.m. Sept. 15. She went with some friends to the south end of town, where she hung out until about 3 a.m. She headed back to her apartment, and the next night, her daughter’s grandmother found her body.
Authorities in the small Arkansas city tried to find her killer but the case went cold. Nearly 12 years later, police said they have found her murderer thanks to a DNA database. An initial match in the database tied Johnson to Blunt’s murder, then officials in Indiana collected more DNA samples from him in prison, where Reynolds said Johnson had been sent for beating his girlfriend. Details of that conviction were not immediately available.
At some point, Johnson asked why officials were taking more samples.
"When they told him, ‘This is for Forrest City,’ they said it looked like he had seen a ghost ‘cause this rascal thought he had gotten away with murder," Reynolds said.
Police said there was no evidence to suggest that Blunt and Johnson had known each other before her death.
Formal charges have yet to be filed in Arkansas and a court clerk said there wasn’t an attorney listed for Johnson. An Arkansas prosecutor didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
Blunt’s family thanked authorities for reviving the case.
"It’s been a long time coming," Blunt’s younger brother, Calvin Blunt, said at a press conference in Forrest City.
But, he said, "she’s still gone."