Jan. 21, 2012 — -- The cold case death of a young boy has been solved after 25 years, exonerating his mother who had long been considered a suspect.
Nicholas Loris, 6, was found strangled to death 150 yards from his Davidson County, N.C., home on Feb. 21, 1987.
The Forsyth County Sheriff's Department credited new technology with helping them to clear Elizabeth Watkins' name and determine that her son's cause of death was a dog attack.
"Not only has she been exonerated but the weight from the last 25 years has been lifted from her shoulders," Watkins' attorney, David Freedman, told ABCNews.com. "It means everything to her."
Spending the past 25 years as a suspect cost Watkins a relationship with her older son, who went to live with his father after she became a suspect, as well as the burden of search warrants, DNA tests and always wondering what really happened to Nicholas.
In partnership with the F.B.I., investigators were able to use new technology to blow up photographs and determine that the claw and scratch marks on the boy's body came from a number of medium-sized dogs. Nicholas died from strangulation after the dogs pulled his clothing tightly around his neck.
"Once [investigators] were able to see the wounds up close, they were able to see they were consistent with a dog attack," Freedman said.
Bill Schatzman, Forsyth County Sheriff, announced at a press conference Thursday that Watkins had been exonerated and the case was officially closed.
Before the news broke, Freedman said law enforcement sat down with Watkins' estranged son, who was not named, and shared the evidence with him.
"They did it to end any question in his mind about whether she was involved," Freedman said.
Since being exonerated, Watkins and her son have been reunited and are reconnecting.
"Her focus now," Freedman said, "is moving forward."