FORREST CITY A DNA match in a cold case in Forrest City has led to capital murder charges filed nearly 12 years after a Forrest City woman was found dead in her apartment.
Police say 19-year-old Tawana Blunt was raped and tortured before being killed in her home on Sept. 15, 2000.
Forrest City Police Chief E.P. Reynolds said authorities received word in late February that key evidence in the homicide had been linked to Anthony "Tony" Lejuan Johnson, an inmate in the Indiana prison system.
"Justice does come if you're patience and have the faith," Reynolds said in a news conference in Forrest City where several dozen of Blunt's friends and family gathered. "This family has been waiting a long time for some justice."
Authorities sought additional DNA samples from Johnson after the preliminary match came through in February using a national database. Reynolds said officials in Indiana reported Johnson was curious why the samples were being taken.
"He just kind of casually asked 'what are you taking DNA samples from me for?' And when they told him this is for Forrest City, they said it looked like he had seen a ghost," the chief said. "Because this rascal thought he had gotten away with murder. But there is a god somewhere."
Blunt's mother, Effie Turner, said she never gave up hope, pressing the police department to keep investigating even as the years went by with no arrest.
She spoke briefly after the news conference, her voice cracking with emotion.
"He took so much from us," she said of Johnson. "He took a life that we can't replace."
Blunt was found in her home, 413 Grobmeyer Circle, the night of Sept. 15, 2000. Blunt lived there with her then-2-year-old daughter, who was staying with relatives that night.
Blunt was last seen alive leaving The Coconut Lounge early that morning.
Johnson - who Reynolds described as having a "history of violence" - did not know Blunt, police said.