DATE: Wednesday, August 20, 1997            TAG: 9708200433



DATELINE: NAGS HEAD                         LENGTH:   65 lines


Janet Siclari, whose bloody body was found nearly four years ago on a dune behind the Carolinian Hotel, is believed to have been a ``victim of sexual assault,'' according to a search warrant.

The July 25 document reveals that police are investigating Thomas Jabin Berry in the slaying of the 35-year-old New Jersey tourist.

No charges have been filed. However, Doris Berry, his mother, confirmed that Thomas Berry is under investigation by the Nags Head Police Department in connection with the 1993 slaying.

Berry, 31, is serving a 10-year sentence in Pasquotank Correctional Institute for taking indecent liberties with a minor. He last lived in Manteo and was convicted in 1992. But his sentence was suspended and he was credited with the 179 days of jail time served. His probation was revoked in January 1996 after he failed several mandatory drug tests.

Police linked Berry to the murder in May, after a match was made between semen found in Siclari's body and DNA in a blood sample taken from Berry, the search warrant said.

Information in the warrant did not make it clear why police believe Siclari was sexually assaulted. Nags Head master police officer Thomas Gilliam, who has been investigating the Siclari slaying, declined Monday to comment on the case.

``As a result of further examination of that sample and comparison to the suspect sample obtained, a definitive match was made of Mr. Berry's DNA and that of the suspect sample obtained from Ms. Siclari,'' Gilliam wrote in the warrant. ``This conclusively showed that Mr. Berry was the donor of the semen discovered in Ms. Siclari.''

Although the coroner reported ``no evidence of injury about the genital area,'' he said that the presence of live sperm indicated that she had sex within 24 hours of her death.

``It could've been two minutes before her death,'' North Carolina Medical Examiner Page Hudson said Tuesday. ``I estimated 24 hours to be safe. It was almost certainly less than 24 hours.''

Hudson conducted the autopsy on Siclari's body Aug. 28, 1993 - hours after she was left to bleed to death on the beach. On the death certificate, Hudson estimated that she died around 2 a.m.

Siclari suffered five stab wounds to the neck. Hudson said her death ``wasn't instantaneous.''

No determination could be made on the kind of knife used in the slaying, the medical examiner said. Numerous small wounds were found on the inside of Siclari's hands - which Hudson described as ``defense wounds.''

The search warrant was served on Brenda Gail McMurran and Willie Lee McMurran, the suspect's sister and brother-in-law in Manteo.

Police were looking for photographs, blood-stained clothing, shoes, knives and ``any other evidence connecting Thomas J. Berry to the crime listed in this affidavit.''

The inventory list of items found in the search include only ``one pair of Northwest Territory boots size 10'' and ``one Dare Co. Detention Center property receipt for Thomas Berry.''

Hudson said that even though Siclari's body showed no genital injury, it does not rule out the possibility that she was assaulted. Nor does the presence of semen mean that she was sexually assaulted, he said.

``Forcible sex does not necessarily mean injury about the genitalia,'' Hudson said. ILLUSTRATION: Photo


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