A man arrested last year for the rape and murder of 17-year-old Annette Thur in Santa Cruz County in 1986 pleaded not guilty in a Redwood City courtroom this morning, according to prosecutors. John William Kelley, 50, of Placerville, was indicted by a San Mateo County grand jury on March 12 on charges of first-degree murder with special-circumstance allegations that the murder was committed during a rape and kidnapping, District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said. The special-circumstance charges make Kelley eligible for the death penalty if he is convicted. Thur had left a party in Boulder Creek early the morning of Dec. 8, 1986, and planned to hitchhike back to her home in Ben Lomond, according to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office.
Prosecutors allege that Kelley, who was then 23, married, and living in Ben Lomond, allegedly picked Thur up in his car, kidnapped her and took her to his home where he raped her before strangling or smothering her. Her body was found a few days later in a ravine off of Skyline Boulevard in unincorporated San Mateo County by a tourist who had stopped to enjoy the view. The murder remained unsolved for decades until the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office reopened the case and was able to match Kelley’s DNA with fluids found on Thur’s body. He was arrested in August 2012. Kelley, a registered sex offender, was convicted of rape in 1995 for a separate sexual assault in Northern California, Wagstaffe said. He served state prison time and was released. He is being held in San Mateo County Jail without bail and will return to court in Redwood City on April 30 to set a date for his jury trial
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