Admitted killer takes plea deal after dentures tied to deaths of two women in Memphis 20 years ago

Investigations

Thomas Maupin gets 12 years in deaths of two women found in Memphis in 2001

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Twenty years later, two families faced the man who killed their loved ones for the first time Thursday morning.

Thomas Maupin, 71, admitted to killing Patricia Thornton and Nancy Alvis. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter.

“We had to make a reduction because a number of key witnesses had passed away during the last 20 years,” prosecuting attorney Eric Christensen said. “Our primary goal was accountability. We wanted to him to admit to what he did.”

Maupin, who entered court in a wheelchair, will get 12 years behind bars.

“I just hope he feels some kind of remorse,” said Lisa Gwathney, sister of Patricia Thornton. “From the look on his face, it looks like he didn’t have remorse. People like that don’t even have a soul.”

In October 2001, deputies found the bodies of Thornton and Alvis in a grassy field off Old Millington Road. Their autopsy reports paint a gruesome death.

It was just weeks after he committed another disturbing crime in North Memphis.

Police say Maupin forced a woman into an alley, stabbed her and used a metal object to rape her. She survived and consented to a sexual assault examination.

Police found a set of his dentures at the scene, but those dentures and the rape kit were placed in a Memphis police property room where they sat for years — until WREG uncovered the kit, as well as more than 12,000 others.

The massive backlog dated back decades. Our coverage put pressure on authorities to get the kits processed.

Once they were, detectives not only found DNA, but they also learned those dentures were made for Maupin in prison while he was serving a sentence for the murder a little girl in Washington state before winning an appeal.

Shelby County said the new information tied him to the murders.

Christensen called it “some really good investigative work by the newer investigators.”

Both families told WREG last year that if the evidence from the North Memphis rape had been quickly processed, they believe Maupin may have been caught before the murders.

“I feel it with all my heart,” said Alvis’ sister Helen Tuttle. “That’s the hardest part to accept.”

Maupin had to stay in court as family members addressed him Thursday. Some said they forgave him.

“I forgive him because if you don’t forgive him, you’ll hold a grudge against yourself. You’ll make yourself sick,” said Gwathney.

Maupin has two more years to serve for the rape in North Memphis. Then he will start his sentence for the Alvis and Horton murders.

He will be eligible for parole after serving 30 percent of the 12 years. The district attorney’s office said they will fight to make sure he doesn’t get out. 

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