The True Story of Thomas Jabin Berry
A Body on the Beach
On Saturday, August 28, 1993, at approximately 6:50 a.m., a sanitation worker discovered the partially-clad body of thirty-five year old Janet Siclari slumped against a sand dune in a pool of blood.
She was lying on her left side, her athletic, five-foot, ninety-five pound frame curled into a fetal position. Blood stained the sand for close to twenty-five feet in all directions. She was dressed in a cropped blue tank top, a white denim vest, and no shoes. She clutched what had once been white denim shorts, now colored a deep crimson red, up under her neck, tucked just below her ear perhaps in an effort to stem the flow of blood. Her panties had been neatly folded and tucked into one of her pockets.
She had defensive wounds to the palms of her hands and fingers, and lacerations on the side of her face and jaw. Her face, chest and neck were covered in blood. One two-and-a-half inch cut had sliced through her jugular vein and severed her larynx, and several other, smaller cuts, possibly intimidation wounds, perforated her throat.
Janet was certainly alive and conscious for some minutes as she struggled to make it back to her hotel, but, unable to remain conscious due to blood loss, she had collapsed on the beach. Janet Siclari had then silently bled to death a mere twenty feet from the oceanfront deck of the Carolinian Hotel, where she had so often enjoyed the company of friends.
Near the body, close to the steps that led to the deck, gray socks and size nine high-top Spalding tennis shoes were found and catalogued as evidence.
Robbery did not appear to be a motive, as Janet was still wearing her earrings, rings and bracelet, and her room key hadn't been taken. Even her watch was still on her wrist, keeping time.
The medical examiner would find live semen inside Janet's body, tails intact, indicating she had had sex within twenty-four hours of the discovery of her body. There was no bruising of the genital area to indicate sexual assault, and her shorts and panties were not torn. A sample of the semen was taken from Janet's body and retained. Without a weapon, fingerprints or other physical evidence, the sperm sample was the best evidence to connect potential suspects to Janet's murder. But the question remained open: Was the man with whom Janet had engaged in sex on her last day the killer, or was he merely an intimate acquaintance unfortunate enough to have been the last person to leave physical evidence of contact with her?
In a town whose economy is built on tourism the investigation of such a crime would be difficult. Vacationing tourists, potential witnesses and suspects, would be continually checking out of their hotels and returning home. Officer Cliff Midgett of the Nag's Head police department summed it up in an interview with The Virginian-Pilot: "[In a resort town], if you don't develop a suspect real quick, everyone packs their bags and leaves."
As if the ordinary challenges of investigating a murder in a resort town weren't enough, within days of the discovery of Janet's body, the people of Nag's Head would be evacuated as Hurricane Emily moved toward the Carolina coast. Interviews would be postponed for several daysseveral days for potential witnesses and suspects to scatter.
After interviewing two hundred people, obtaining twelve DNA samples from various men, including the victim's brother, and offering a $20,000 reward for any information, the police were unable to make any arrests. It would be another four and a half years before Janet's family would see her killer brought to justice.