1999 Clayton cold case murder solved, officials say

Jonathan Jenkins

CLAYTON, N.C. (WNCN) – Clayton Police have charged a Smithfield man with murder in a 17-year-old cold case, officials said Friday.

Jonathan Lynn Jenkins, 43, who is already behind bars on human trafficking charges, has now been charged with first-degree-murder in the 1999 murder of Elton Demond Whitfield.

Whitfield’s body was found in a field near Lake Myra Road in Wake County a month after he went missing from his Clayton home in March of 1999. Investigators at the time believed that Whitfield may have been strangled. The victim and Jenkins knew each other.

Officials said that new developments this summer led the Clayton Police to reopen the cold case. On Tuesday, Johnston County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrested Jenkins in a separate investigation. Jenkins, along with another man, has been charged in an illegal prostitution ring that involved trafficking women, including at least one juvenile, in Wake and Johnston counties.

This is the second time Jenkins has been accused of murder by the Clayton Police Department. In 2006 he pleaded guilty to murdering Joseph Richard Vestal in the Clayton Estates Mobile Home Park and served nearly eight years in prison. He was released from prison in Jan. 2014.

Jenkins is being held on no bond in the Johnston County Detention Center.

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