RIVERHEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — It’s been more than 16 years since a Riverhead High School homecoming queen was killed in a frenzied rage.
On Monday, the classmate convicted of the shocking stabbing went on trial for a second time.
CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan first covered the murder in 1996 and returned to court Monday.
Despite 15 years having passed since the grisly killing, the courtroom was still on edge. The victim’s family brimmed with emotion over the re-trial.
“I can’t … it’s just too much, too much right now,” said Viola Morning, the mother of the victim.
Her daughter’s chilling killing captivated a nation. Back in 1996, Curtisha Morning, a college-bound nursing student, high school senior and homecoming queen, mysteriously vanished.
Five weeks later her tall slender body was found punctured with 96 stab wounds on school grounds, near an athletic field and covered by branches and leaves.
Back in 1996, Viola Morning told CBS 2’s McLogan, “They found my baby’s body last night. Can you imagine what that’s like for me? Felt my whole world fall apart, my whole world crashing under my feet. Curtisha had so much going for her.”
The shaken community, frantic that a sexual killer was on the loose, was stunned when Curtisha Morning’s female classmate, Kalila Taylor, also 17 years old, was arrested and convicted in the vicious violent murder.
She was motivated, prosecutors said, by a jealous rage over a boy.
“How could there not be emotion in the court? Poor, young girl brutally murdered and the saddest part is her family — they have to relive this again,” Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney Janet Albertson said.
When the state’s highest court overturned the conviction, ruling the judge had given the original jury faulty instructions concerning DNA evidence, a second trial was ordered, CBS 2’s McLogan reported.
“There is not murder weapon recovered from the scene. The evidence is circumstantial. The eyewitness is unreliable and tainted,” defense attorney John Loturco said.
Taylor had been under psychiatric care in prison after she told a judge she was framed by a detective who used a device that cloned people from snakes. However, after therapy and medication she is now deemed fit for re-trial.
An aunt of the suspect told McLogan, “I am here for Kalila Taylor’s side, and it’s in Jesus’ name.”
Curtisha Morning’s family flew on for the trial from North Carolina. They moved away unable to cope after their daughter’s murder.
The trial is expected to take up to three weeks.
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