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San Quentin inmate arrested in 1987 slaying of teenage boy

SAN DIEGO — Authorities Thursday announced an arrest in connection with the sex-assault slaying of a 15-year-old boy whose nude and mutilated body was found dumped in a culvert near his Valencia Park home three decades ago.

Russell Taylor, 56, was serving a 25-year sentence in San Quentin State Prison for a narcotics conviction when he was booked this month on suspicion of murdering Dewan Emerson of San Diego, according to police.

Late on the evening of April 28, 1987, the teen told his mother he was stepping outside for a few minutes to talk to someone who had stopped by their Naranja Street house, San Diego Police Lt. Mike Holden said. He never returned home.

The following morning, trolley employees found the boy’s unclothed and disfigured body in a nearby flood-control channel. An autopsy determined that he had been bound by the wrists, sexually assaulted and strangled.

Holden declined to disclose the nature of the mutilation the victim had suffered.

An intensive investigation led to no arrests, and the matter eventually went to the department’s cold-case file, Holden said.

Recently, police homicide detectives and investigators with the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office re-opened the case, re-interviewing witnesses and family members, and reviewing physical evidence collected immediately after the crime took place.

Advances in forensic technology allowed for the development of a perpetrator DNA profile that led to the identification of Taylor — who lived in San Diego at the time of the murder — as the suspected killer. He has since been transferred from the Marin County penitentiary and charged with murder in the teenager’s death.

Detectives do not believe the victim and suspect were acquainted prior to the day the homicide occurred and remain unclear on whether it was Taylor or someone else who stopped by the boy’s home that night, Holden said.

Investigators are still trying to identify someone seen on the night of the slaying, running in the 5100 block of Groveland Drive, a block from where Dewan’s body would be found, according to Holden.

That person — described as black, about 6 feet tall, in his mid-to-late teens and “chubby” — told a witness he was being chased.

“This (man) has not been identified, and detectives are asking for the public’s help in identifying him,” the lieutenant said.

Though Dewan’s family moved away from San Diego “quite a few years ago,” authorities have located the victim’s mother and informed her about the long-awaited break in the case, Holden said.