Justice within reach for families of two women killed in Memphis in 2001

Investigations

Evidence sat unprocessed for years

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A convicted rapist left his dentures at a crime scene, and they had his name stenciled on them. But it took 15 years for the state lab to examine the dentures and evidence collected from the victim and even longer for an arrest.

Now investigators say while that rapist walked free, he killed two more women.

Read: Convicted rapist charged in murders of two women in Frayser in 2001

Shelby County deputies said in October 2001, they were called to a grassy field off Old Millington Road south of Fite.

Two teens had been hunting that day when they made the gruesome discovery: a body badly decomposed.

“We started looking for Nancy on the 24th day of September that year of 2001,” said Helen Tuttle.

She said her memory is still fresh.

“I had this dream one night that Nancy was in heaven. It might sound crazy, but I woke up the next morning and I was a wreck. I knew she was gone,” she said.

Tuttle later discovered that body in the field was her sister, 46-year-old Nancy Alvis.

Nancy Alvis

The next day detectives were back at the scene and found a pair of shoes that led them to another body, 37-year-old Patricia Thornton.

“She was down in a ditch. She was all cut up and had no clothes on. She had one sock on. That’s all she had,” said Thornton’s aunt Marcine Gibson.

They say the autopsy reports paint a horrific death.

“The murders were brutal, brutal, brutal,” said Tuttle.

They both waited anxiously for answers, but that took years.

“I’m still angry about that,” said Tuttle.

In August 2001, just a few weeks before Alvis and Thornton’s bodies were found, Memphis police were called to the 1200 block of Thomas Street.

A woman claimed she was approached by a man. He parked his car and started walking with her.

Moments later, he forced her into an alley, stabbed her with a metal object that pierced through her chin into the roof of her mouth. He then used that object to rape her and forced her to perform sex acts. She survived and consented to a sexual assault examination.

Meanwhile, detectives found dentures at the crime scene with a man’s name on them. They were bagged, and along with the rape kit, placed in a MPD property room where they sat for years.

That’s until WREG uncovered that kit, as well as more than 12,000 others, all sitting on shelves collecting dust. The massive rape kit backlog dated back decades. Our coverage put pressure on the city to get those kits processed.

In 2016, the dentures and rape kit were finally sent to a state lab. Not only was DNA found, but investigators also learned those dentures were made for a man while he was in prison in 1988, serving a sentence for the murder of a 6-year-old girl in Washington state.

Detectives learned Thomas Maupin was convicted twice for the girl’s murder, but due to an error at trial, he appealed and got out early. He then moved to Memphis.

Sixteen years after the rape on Thomas Street, he pleaded guilty.

Read: Dentures left at scene lead to rape conviction 16 years later

That’s when the sheriff’s office says they were able to pin him to Alvis and Thornton’s murders.

“They worked hard on it ever since,” said Tuttle, praising the investigators who have worked the case.

Those county investigators say Maupin had been a suspect, because he claimed he knew Alvis and Thornton, and he also admitted to paying women for sex and driving them to the secluded area where the bodies were found.

WREG asked Tuttle and Gibson if they believe their loved ones would still be alive if they worked hard to investigate the 2001 rape.

“I do. Yeah. I think they would I feel it with all my heart,” said Tuttle.

“That’s the hardest part to accept. That’s just as hard as him killing them,” said Tuttle. “It makes no sense that if the teeth were right there and they had them. They put that and the rape kit, why wasn’t the rape kit tested immediately? They had his teeth. They knew he was in town. Why didn’t they go get him?”

On June 10, Maupin was indicted on two counts of first-degree murder.

“I went out to the cemetery to let her know,” said Tuttle, referring to her sister Nancy Alvis. “She knows that I fought long enough. Long and hard and I would never give up.”

It has been years of uncertainty, and now justice is in reach.

“I believe God will make sure he gets what he deserves,” Gibson said.

Alvis and Thornton are remembered as loving and selfless. They were both mothers.

“She loved her kids more than anything in the world,” said Tuttle. “He walked free all of those years.”

Maupin is now 70 years old. He’s due in court at the end of July.

WREG looks into Maupin’s Washington state case

In January 1988, 6-year-old Tricna Dawn Cloy disappeared during the night from their family home in Spokane, Washington. Court records state Maupin was an early suspect, because he and the child were at a birthday party the child’s neighbor hosted. Maupin had walked the family home.

Detectives reportedly questioned Maupin, who was living with his girlfriend and invalid mother. In June 1988, the girl’s body was found in a gravel pit near her home. Detectives say they recovered her skull, several small bones and clumps of hair.

Maupin was convicted and sentenced to 480 months in prison. He appealed, and due to an error at trial, the conviction was reversed. He got out after spending 12 years behind bars.

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