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DNA leads to an arrest in the murder of a New York teenage boy 35 years ago



Wendy Jerome, 14, was raped and killed while delivering a birthday card in her neighborhood on Thanksgiving in 1984. Her body was found that night by a pedestrian near a school trash can with “obvious signs of trauma,” said Rochester police captain Frank Umbrino.

Timothy Williams, 56, was arrested at his home in Melbourne, Florida on Wednesday and was charged as a refugee, according to Julie Hahn, assistant district attorney for Monroe County.

In a tearful speech, Jerome’s mother thanked the police for the efforts they had made to resolve the case.

“I never thought I’d see that day, and now it’s here,” said Marlene Jerome. “I just wish my husband had been alive to see this. He died in 201

1 and I know he’s up there with her and they smile and say, ‘It’s over, it’s finally over.'”

In 1999, DNA obtained from semen collected during an autopsy was uploaded to the FBI’s DNA database but had no matches, Umbrino said. In 2017, New York City law was amended to allow law enforcement to search for familial matches with DNA collected during criminal investigations, and the department requested a familial DNA search to see if there was a match the extracted DNA is present or related to someone who may be.

In July 2020, familial search results from the New York crime lab led to new clues, which, according to Umbrino, have been narrowed down to possible suspects.

Law enforcement confirmed Williams’ involvement in an additional DNA sample, District Attorney Sandra Doorley said, declining to discuss the evidence further.

Williams lived in Jerome’s neighborhood in 1984 and, according to Umbrino, would have been 20 years old at the time of Jerome’s death.

Williams did not have a defense attorney in Florida, where, according to the Brevard County Clerk, he waived extradition in Florida. He is now awaiting extradition to New York, where he will be charged with second degree murder in Rochester City Court, Hahn said.

Investigators found the case particularly telling and often helped further after leaving the department, Umbrino said. An officer had participated in the investigation since the first report. Some, like Hahn, had been children at the time of the murder and remembered them vividly.

“Wendy’s story made me the prosecutor I am today,” said Hahn.

Umbrino suppressed tears as he recounted how investigators visited Jerome’s mother Thursday night to tell her that Williams had been arrested.

“Marlene, I’m sorry it took so long, but we finally made it,” said Umbrino with a cracking voice as he hugged her.


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