Mother cleared of son's murder after 25 years

 

Los Angeles

For 25 years, Elizabeth Watkins has lived under a cloud of suspicion as the sole "person of interest" in a police investigation into the death of her son, Nicholas Loris.

She claimed to have been in her mobile home on the afternoon in February 1987 when the six-year-old boy disappeared. His body was later found, strangled, in a ravine about 150 yards from the residence in the city of Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

But not everyone believed her story. After detectives announced they had questioned Ms Watkins on suspicion of the murder of Nicholas, she became a local pariah.

In the ensuing media circus, her other son, Alex, who was then eight, was taken away to live with his father.

But this week, Ms Watkins was finally exonerated. A new inquiry by the local sheriff's office, in collaboration with the FBI, has concluded that the boy was not murdered. He was killed by a pack of dogs in a freak accident. Forensic experts, who re-opened the case in 2003, say they now believe that Nicholas was attacked by dogs as he walked the family's pet, a collie which happened to be in heat.

The dogs appear to have wrestled the boy to the ground and then pulled on the hooded top he was wearing. The collar on his top tightened around his neck and eventually choked-off his air supply.

Investigators reached the conclusion after using photographic technology to enhance images of the child's corpse. They were then able compare details of the marks around his neck with the fabric of the clothes he was wearing at the time.

After realising that the marks matched the texture of the top, they began trying to work out how it could have been pulled so tight. Then they realised that scratches on his body, once thought to indicate a struggle with a human attacker, were the work of dogs.

David Freeman, a lawyer for Ms Watkins, told reporters that she met detectives on Thursday and learned that the death of Nicholas was finally being treated as a freak accident.

"She's extremely relieved and grateful to be exonerated and cleared of suspicion, but it's still very sad for her to re-live this tragedy and learn the details of how he died," he said.

Mr Freeman said his client hoped that news of her innocence would persuade her elder son, Alex, to see her again. "Nicholas had a brother who has been estranged from Elizabeth for 24 years. She's hopeful the investigation has not only exonerated her but given her her other son back."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Sport
Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
footballMan City vs Burnley match report
News
news
News
Sir James Dyson: 'Students must be inspired to take up the challenge of engineering'
i100
Life and Style
Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
techSecurity breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Arts and Entertainment
Catherine (Sarah Lancashire) in Happy Valley ((C) Red Productions/Ben Blackall)
TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Negotiator - OTE £24,000

£22000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An enthusiastic individual is r...

Recruitment Genius: Area Manager - West Midlands - OTE £35,000

£27000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Area Manager is required to ...

Recruitment Genius: Area Manager - Yorkshire & Humber - OTE £35,000

£27000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Area Manager is required to ...

Recruitment Genius: Embedded Linux Engineer - C / C++

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A well funded smart home compan...

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?