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Updated Oct 8, 2010 - 3:27 pm

Halloween murder haunts Phoenix police

PHOENIX -- Halloween will bring back the horrors of an unsolved murder for Phoenix police.

On Oct. 31, 2009, the dismembered body of Viniko "Nick" Thornton, 42, was found behind a vacant business near 51st Avenue and Bell Road when a resident dumping items noticed a bad odor coming from the dumpster.

Investigators discovered the body of an African-American male, later identified as Thornton, in several containers near the dumpster.

Detectives learned that Thornton last lived at a residence located north of Bell Road between 43rd and 51st Avenue, according to Sgt. Trent Crump with the Phoenix Police Department. They served a search warrant on the house and discovered the murder scene.

Clues have dried up since then, according to ABC-15.

Officers are asking for the public's help to locate members of Thornton's family. Investigators have contacted authorities in Chicago, Illinois, and Oakland, Calif., where they believe Thornton may have lived at one time, but have been unable to find any relatives.

Sgt. Darren Burch of Silent Witness said police believe the killer knew Thornton and hope to find some witnesses.

As far as witnesses, it's real difficult," Burch said. "This occurred in the home, so it wasn't out and about in the community. So, it's more trying to find someone who can give us some direction on why somebody would want to kill him. As far as a witness at the dump site, 51st Avenue and Bell, it's real possible somebody might have scared the suspect off when he was trying to dump the body... So there is a potential of a witness at the actual dump site, on Halloween a year ago."

Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact the Phoenix Police Department's Violent Crimes Bureau at 602-262-6141 or Silent Witness at 480-WITNESS.


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