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Dying Girl’s Words Lead to Arrest

September 28, 1988

HOUSTON (AP) _ A dying 15-year-old girl’s last words led police to arrest a man and charge him with murder in the fatal stabbings of the teen-ager and her 3-year-old cousin, authorities said.

Before Sandra Charles’ death, ″she could speak very little, (but) she managed to give us her first name and the suspect’s first name,″ said Police Detective Dennis Gafford.

Preston Hughes III, a convicted sex offender, was charged Tuesday with capital murder and is being held without bail.

Hughes, 22, has admitted killing Miss Charles and her cousin, Marcell Taylor, but claims the killings were the result of a mistaken identity, investigators said.

Miss Charles and her cousin were found late Monday lying near a wooded path behind a restaurant in west Houston. The boy was dead from two stab wounds to the chest and one to the back of the head, Gafford said.

Miss Charles, suffering from stab wounds to the neck and chest, was rushed to West Houston Medical Center and then to Ben Taub Hospital, where she died a short time later.

Police said they believe the teen-ager was mortally injured after she fought off a rape attempt, and the boy was killed either to eliminate him as a witness or to stop him from crying.

Hughes told police he was walking through a wooded lot behind his apartment when he began ″thinking someone was after him,″ Gafford said. ″He’s just saying that it was a mistaken identity and they ended up getting stabbed.″

″He thought somebody had come up behind him, and he decided to attack first instead of being attacked,″ Detective Ted Bloyd said.

Hughes told police he was intoxicated at the time of the attack, investigators said.

Hughes, a department store employee, was arrested early Tuesday at his apartment near the death scene, Gafford said. A knife with a 6-inch blade was recovered from the apartment, police said.

Hughes was on probation after pleading guilty to raping a 13-year-old girl in 1985 and then later threatening the same teen-ager with a gun, court records show.

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