04/07/04 — Forte loses appeal

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Forte loses appeal

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on April 7, 2004 2:04 PM

Linwood Earl Forte, sentenced to death last year for the murders of three elderly people in Goldsboro, has lost his appeal of a seven-year sentence for assaulting a prison guard and trying to escape before his trial.

After he was arrested in 2001, Forte tried to escape from Craven Correctional Institution in Vanceboro. He assaulted a prison guard, Jeffery Johnson, and handcuffed him to a fence.

Johnson testified during the sentencing phase of Forte's murder trial that he thought he was going to be killed. He needed almost a year to recover from his injuries. Forte had appealed the sentence to the N.C. Court of Appeals.

The 39-year-old Forte was convicted Oct. 8 of the 1990 murders of Hattie Bonner and Alvin and Thelma Bowen. DNA evidence also linked him to the rapes of Ms. Bonner and Mrs. Bowen and a third woman who survived and testified against him. The victims were in their 70s.

A Wayne County Superior Court jury convicted him on all 11 charges and sentenced him to death.

Forte was convicted of breaking into a home on Leslie Street, assaulting and raping the elderly resident on May 26, 1990; then breaking into a home at 411 Charles St. and raping and fatally strangling Ms. Bonner, 74, on July 13 or 14, 1990; and breaking into a home at 805 E. Holly St., stabbing Alvin Bowen, 78, to death and raping and fatally strangling his blind wife, Thelma, 75, and setting their home and car on fire on Oct. 6, 1990.

Judge Thomas Haigwood of Greenville also sentenced Forte to four consecutive life sentences for the first-degree rapes of the three women and the burglary of the survivor's home and another 15 years for the assault on the survivor.

Forte's death sentences were appealed automatically to the N.C. Supreme Court. The appeals have not been heard.

Forte was not arrested until April 30, 2001, at his job in Dudley. DNA evidence recovered from the three crime scenes matched his sample obtained routinely after his 1996 conviction for firing a weapon into his wife's home. Another DNA sample was obtained after his arrest and was used to match the 1990 samples in court.

The same day he was picked up, Forte also showed two SBI agents and Richard Lewis, the lead police investigator and now the district attorney's investigator, where the crimes occurred.

While riding with the officers, Forte also confessed to a fourth murder, in the Fairview Homes project in Goldsboro.

He did not identify the victim or the year it happened, but he was indicted for the 1994 murder of Dora Thomas. He has not been tried for the crime.