INGLEWOOD — Nearly 30 years after 11-year-old William Tillett was kidnapped and murdered while walking home from Bennett-Kew Elementary School, police have arrested Edward Donell Thomas, 50, and charged him with the boy’s murder.
Now, police and the boy’s family are asking for information from the public that could lead to the arrest of Thomas’ suspected accomplice in the cold case murder from 1990.
Tillett was last seen walking home from school near Imperial Highway and Crenshaw Boulevard around 3 p.m. on May 24, 1990, police say. His body was found later that day in a residential neighborhood in Hawthorne.
Initial investigative work produced no criminal charges and for nearly three decades, the case into Tillett’s murder was classified as unsolved, yet open. That changed Feb. 14 when Inglewood detectives arrested Thomas at his Pomona home for Tillett’s kidnapping and murder.
Police Chief Mark Fronterotta said detectives have a strong case but would not reveal any specifics, saying only that a combination of advanced forensic technology and good detective work helped break the case.
Meanwhile, the county District Attorney’s Office filed special circumstances murder charges against Thomas Feb. 19 that could make him eligible for the death penalty. Thomas also faces an additional charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm, which investigators said was in his home when he was arrested.
Thomas is being held without bail pending an April 4 court hearing.
Fronterotta, an Inglewood police officer in 1990 when Tillett was killed, said the case “really hits deeply with all of us. The Inglewood Police Department has never given up on this case and has been actively looking into this horrific event for 29 years.”
He said detectives believe Thomas had an accomplice in the case and are seeking the public’s help in identifying any information that might be relevant.
“They may have heard something, know something, maybe they saw something,” he said. “Please let us know so that we can bring ultimate justice to this innocent child who was murdered in 1990.”
Tillett’s brother Hubert said family members are grateful for the diligence of police detectives and, ultimately, want to see Tillett’s killers brought to justice.
“I just wanted to thank the Inglewood Police Department for their perseverance. … With us being so close, I just want to keep the momentum going,” Hubert Tillett said as his mother, Ruth, fought back tears.
“I just want to plead with the community, come forward, take a look at this picture [of the suspect] and if anything jogs your mental rolodex from three decades ago, please contact (police) so we can stay on top of this and move forward and get this case closed and bring closure,” he said.
Anyone with information about the case may call Inglewood homicide detectives at (310) 412-5246 or call the 24-hour anonymous tip line at (888) 412-7463.