William Tillett, 11, was walking home from school when he was kidnapped

By Christine Pelisek
February 21, 2019 05:15 PM
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Inglewood Police Department

A Los Angeles man could be facing the death penalty for the decades-old murder of an 11-year-old boy who was abducted while walking home from school.

Edward Donell Thomas, 50, was charged Wednesday with one count of murder as well as special circumstance allegations of murder during the commission of a kidnapping and lying in wait in the 1990 death of William Tillett.

Thomas, who is also charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm, is eligible for the death penalty, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

“One of the pieces of evidence in this case is DNA,” Deputy District Attorney Beth Silverman tells PEOPLE.

The motive behind the crime is unclear and if the boy knew his alleged killer.

Jae C Hong/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Thomas made his initial appearance in Los Angeles Superior Court Wednesday but has not entered a plea.

His lawyer Tracy Grayson declined to comment about the case.

William was walking home at about 3 p.m. from Kew Elementary School in Inglewood, near Los Angeles International Airport, on May 24, 1990, when he was abducted. According to the Los Angeles Times, the boy started off walking with two friends but said goodbye to them and started off alone about six blocks from his home.

One of the boy’s teachers, Anne Rodman, told the Times in 1990 that William wanted to show his independence and prove he wasn’t “a baby anymore,” adding, “He was in that independent stage of the growing-up process.”

The boy was never seen alive again.

About six hours after his parents reported him missing, his body was discovered in an Inglewood carport, the Times reported. He had been suffocated and there were signs that his wrists had been bound, according to the paper.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Inglewood Police Chief Mark Fronterotta said investigators do not believe that Thomas acted alone but declined to elaborate on who else was involved, KTLA reports.

Edward Donell Thomas
Inglewood Police Department

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William’s brother, Herbert Tillett, said he is hoping for closure in the case.

“With us being so close, I just want to keep the momentum going and I just want to plead with the community to just come forward,” he said, at the press conference, according to KTLA. “If anything jogs your mental Rolodex from three decades ago, please contact (police).”

Inglewood Mayor James Butts, who was deputy chief of police at the time, said the boy’s murder “affected this entire community,” KTLA reports.

Thomas is scheduled to be arraigned April 4 and is being held without bail in Los Angeles County Jail.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to call Inglewood homicide detectives at 310-412-5246.