An apparent murder case which remained unsolved for nearly 25 years has been closed after investigators concluded that a six-year-old boy was killed by a pack of dogs in a tragic accident.
The resolution of the investigation into Nicholas Loris’ death has brought his mother’s decades-long nightmare to an end, as she was the only suspect in her son’s supposed killing.
Elizabeth Watkins’ torment since Nicholas’ 1987 death was increased by the collapse of her relationship with her other son, who has been estranged from her since the horrific incident.
The case was twice investigated and then closed, but a new investigation from the FBI and North Carolina police used cutting-edge technology to determine that Nicholas could have been strangled by animals, not by a human.
They have concluded that the boy was attacked by dogs while he was walking his own pet, a collie which was in heat – which police believe attracted the other dogs.
The dogs pulled on the hoodie he was wearing, tightening it around his neck and choking off his air supply.
Forensic experts used new photographic technology to examine the marks on Nicholas’ neck, and compare them to the fabric of his clothing.
They also decided that scratches found on Nicholas’ body were probably inflicted by dogs.
There were no witnesses to his death.
The last time Ms Watkins saw her small son, he told her he was going outside to play with two dogs in his Forsyth County neighbourhood.
Since he was found dead near her house, she has always been the chief suspect in what many people assumed was Nicholas’ murder.
‘She’s extremely relieved and grateful to be exonerated and cleared of suspicion,’ said her lawyer, ‘but it’s still very sad for her to relieve this tragedy and learn the details of how he died.’
‘I hope people learn from this not to jump to conclusions,’ he added.
After Nicholas’ death his older brother Alex, now 33, went to live with his father, and has not spoken to his mother since.
Ms Watkins hopes that her exoneration will enable her to get back in contact with Alex.