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Accused murderer pleads not guilty
March 23, 2013, 05:00 AM By Heather Murtagh Daily Journal Staff

John Kelley

A Placerville sex offender linked by DNA to the 1986 rape and fatal beating of a 17-year-old Ben Lomond girl whose body was discovered down a San Mateo County embankment pleaded not guilty Friday to murder charges.

John William Kelley, 50, has pleaded not guilty to murder during the course of kidnapping and sexually assaulting Annette Thur in December 1986, said Chief Deputy District Attorney Karen Guidotti. Kelley will be due back in court April 3 to set a pretrial conference and jury trial date.

Sheriff's investigators arrested Kelly in August after the county crime lab reran DNA from fluids recovered from the crime scene and hit on him. Kelley, a registered sex offender who has lived in Oregon and California, resided in Ben Lomond at the time of Thur's death and, nearly a decade later, in 1995, was convicted of rape in Humboldt County.

Thur was last seen early Dec. 6, 1986 leaving a party in Boulder Creek with the intention of hitchhiking. Later that day, a tourist stopping to check out the view from Skyline Boulevard just north of Alpine Road spotted her body eight feet down the embankment with a denim jacket over her head and torso. Investigators determined Thur had been sexually assaulted, beaten and possibly strangled but were never able to pinpoint a viable suspect.

Once Kelley was in custody, prosecutors said they believed he picked Thur up and took her back to his Ben Lomond home where she was sexually assaulted. Kelley, then 23 and married, is accused of strangling or smothering Thur and leaving the body in the ravine.

Prosecutors cannot charge him with rape or kidnapping because the statute of limitations has expired. However, the special circumstance murder charge still carries the death penalty or life in prison without parole.

(650) 344-5200 ext. 105

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