ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) — After nearly 49 years of serving his sentence in prison, a man convicted of raping and murdering a 10-year-old Abilene girl has died of pancreatic cancer. Now, Tona Worthington’s family is able to have some peace as they continue to mourn her death.

Betty Worthington Braxter,Tona’s mother, has spent almost 50 years of her life trying to keep James Duke Creel in prison.  

“He said, ‘The Worthington family and the people of Abilene might as well face it, we all get out,’ but he didn’t get out,” says Betty. 

She could not stand to see another girl hurt like her daughter was in 1971. 

“I know because of her little body what she had to go through,” she says. 

Tona was about to leave Reagan Elementary School when James Duke Creel beat her up and put her in his car. The next time that Betty was able to see her daughter, her body was in a culvert, and Betty was never the same.

After a not guilty plea, conviction and life sentence, Creel tried to get out on parole several times.

“He was being released one time there, but we got it reversed the same day,” she says. 

Betty would go out and get signatures from citizens in Abilene and even some in the surrounding areas to try to keep him in prison. 

“Abilene and the people around Abilene just weren’t ready for him,” she says. 

She even had some people writing to the parole board, including Bill Davis, a detective on the case. Davis’s son, Jim, even wrote two letters himself. 

“He was obviously a danger to the public, especially children, and needed to stay in prison,” Davis says. 

He says that his dad would be proud that they were able to keep him behind bars. 

“He wouldn’t celebrate his death,” he says. “But I’m sure that he would be satisfied that he served the punishment that he was given.” 

Because Betty was finding people like Davis to be a part of her petition, she was never able to truly grieve the death of her daughter. 

“It’s been a long time, but when you have to get signatures all the time, everyone talks to you about it,” says Betty. 

Now, she is able to mourn her daughter’s death without being worried about the case. 

“He can’t ever hurt anybody else,” says Betty.