Man who mutilated teen in 1987 gets life sentence

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SAN DIEGO – A prison inmate who admitted murdering a teenage boy in San Diego in 1987 was sentenced Monday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Russell Taylor, 56, was serving time in San Quentin State Prison for another crime when he was charged with the murder of Dewan Emerson.

The 15-year-old’s body was discovered in a flood control channel in the 5200 block of Naranja Street. Police said he’d been strangled and sexually assaulted.

Deputy District Attorney Valerie Summers said the case was reopened last September, and DNA testing established Taylor as the suspect.

The prosecutor said Taylor tried to kill two other people two months after the teen’s death, and was sent to prison. He was found in possession of cocaine base in 2000, shortly after his release, and put back behind bars, she said.

Taylor’s arrest and sentencing in Dewan’s case, the result of DNA technology more sensitive than it was previously, came shortly before he would have been eligible for parole, according to Summers.

Police previously said the boy told his mother late one night that he was stepping outside to talk to someone he knew and would be back in a few minutes. He didn’t come home, and his body was discovered the next morning. A witness reported seeing a male teen running nearby who wore a torn t-shirt and said he was being chased, but no suspect could be identified.

Taylor was 26 years old when Dewan was killed.

San Diego Superior Court Judge Michael Smyth sentenced Taylor without comment.