DNA links an Indiana inmate to the rape and killing of a 19-year-old mother who was strangled 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 Tawana Blunt's death, 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 with a ligature, police said. Authorities wouldn't give specifics on the ligature or how she was tortured.
Blunt's 2-year-old daughter was staying with relatives the night of the killing, family members said.
The young mother got off work at a restaurant about 1:30 a.m. on 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 shortly before 10 p.m. her daughter's grandmother found her body.
Authorities in the small Arkansas city tried to solve the case but it went cold. Nearly 12 years later, police said they have found her killer thanks to a DNA database. An initial match in the database linked the 44-year-old Johnson to Blunt's slaying.
Then, officials in Indiana collected more DNA samples from him in prison, where Reynolds said Johnson had been sent for beating his girlfriend. According to prison records, Johnson was charged with domestic battery, burglary and intimidation in Tippecanoe County, Ind.
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. A defense attorney listed for Johnson in Indiana didn't immediately return a phone call, nor did an Arkansas prosecutor.
Blunt's family thanked authorities for reviving the case.
"It's been a long time coming," Blunt's younger brother, Calvin Blunt, said at the news conference.
But, he said, "she's still gone."
Follow Jeannie Nuss at http://twitter.com/jeannienuss