But at a September Innocence Commission hearing, evidence was presented that another man - Craig Taylor (no relation) - confessed to the crime. Armed with that and other information, the panel recommended the case be reopened.
But after reviewing all the new evidence, Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby has doubts - especially about Craig Taylor's confession.
"If the public were to go back and read these statements in their entirety - not just the little portions that were shown to the Innocence Inquiry Commission - they would be skeptical also," he told Eyewitness News.
The statements are four interviews done over ten weeks this year. They were conducted by Sharon Stellato - an investigator for the Innocence Commission.
She asked Craig Taylor how he killed the victim - to which he answered: "two gunshots to the head."
The only problem with that confession is the victim was stabbed to death.
Craig Taylor stuck with his story until a fourth a final interview when he said "Truth of the matter is, nah, I didn't kill her."
But just minutes later - in the only portion of the interviews released on audiotape - he said he did hit Jacquetta Thomas after an argument.
"What did you hit her with? Your hands?" asked Stellato.
"Bat. Bat. Cause I'd been known to do a lot of damage with my hands back then too. I guess, the hands just wasn't good enough," Taylor answered.
Tomas had blunt force trauma to the head, according to an autopsy, but she was also stabbed.
So Stellato asks another question.
"Did you have a knife?"
"I always keep a little pocket knife. You're wondering about the stab wounds too," said Taylor.
"Did you cut her? Did you cut her anywhere? Do you even remember?" asked Stellato.
"To tell you the truth, when I black out, blank out, I don't. There's things people do they don't even remember they done," said Taylor.
An expert on confessions testified before the Innocence Commission and said - despite earlier denials - the admissions made by Craig Taylor are credible and match up with evidence only the killer would know.
There are also recordings of phone conversations between Craig Taylor and his mother in which he says he wants to clear the air before he goes to his grave.
The documents seem to indicate Taylor believes he is close to death saying he has full-blown AIDS.