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Published: Wednesday, 6/25/2003

Arrest made in teen's '98 death

Walter Triplett, 50, was arrested. Walter Triplett, 50, was arrested.

Toledo police yesterday arrested a man for the second time in the murder of a 17-year-old Rogers High School student in a 1998 case recently re-investigated by Lucas County's cold case unit.

Walter Triplett, 50, was arrested at his mother's home in the 1700 block of Ottawa Drive. A Lucas County grand jury indicted him June 13 for aggravated murder and aggravated robbery in the death of Paul Wiggins on Nov. 22, 1998.

“All I want is justice, closure, peace, and happiness,” said Lisa Jelks, young Wiggins' mother, after hearing the news of Triplett's arrest. “If he did this, he should confess and get this over with. It's unexplainable to watch someone you've brought into this world and cared for taken from you like this.”

Triplett declined comment as he was taken in handcuffs from the police department's detective bureau to jail. Triplett will be arraigned at 8:30 a.m. today in Lucas County Common Pleas Court before Judge Ronald Bowman.

Young Wiggins was found beaten to death at Triplett's North Detroit Avenue apartment in 1988. Triplett's girlfriend found his body on the kitchen floor and called police.

The Lucas County Coroner's Office said the youth had been struck repeatedly in the head, chest, and abdomen with a heavy instrument and had been dead two or three days.

Police arrested Triplett three days later at a Fernwood Avenue residence.

But Triplett was released in March, 1999, because of what the Lucas County Prosecutor's Office called evidentiary problems. Toledo police Detective Sgt. Steve Forrester said a key witness in the case refused to testify, forcing authorities to drop the charges.

Sergeant Forrester said the cold case unit found new witnesses and new physical evidence that tied Triplett to the murder. He said the indictment was sealed because authorities feared Triplett would flee if he knew police were looking for him again.

Ms. Jelks called the nearly five years since her son's death “horrifying.”

“Every time I walked into the store, I was scared because I knew the person who did this was still out there,” Ms. Jelks said. “I've just been hurting all of this time.”

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