DNA test leads to arrest in the killing of a New York teenager 35 years ago

DNA testing has led to the arrest of a in the 35-year-old murder of a Rochester teenager in New York,

Wendy Jerome, 14, was raped and killed while delivering a birthday card in her neighborhood on Thanksgiving Day of 1984. Her body was found by a pedestrian near a school dumpster that night with “obvious signs of trauma,” said Rochester police Capt. Frank Umbrino at an emotional press conference on Friday, September 11.

Timothy Lee Williams, 56, was arrested at his home in Melbourne, Florida, on Wednesday and arraigned as a fugitive, according to Monroe County Assistant District Attorney Julie Hahn. He was charged with second-degree murder in the homicide of Wendy Jerome, whose body was found in an alcove of Schools 33 and 11 near Webster Avenue.

In 1999, DNA extracted from semen collected during an autopsy was uploaded to the FBI’s DNA database, but had no matches, Rochester Police Capt. Frank Umbrino said.

 In 2017, the New York law was changed to allow law enforcement to search for familial matches to DNA collected in criminal investigations, and the department requested to have a familial DNA search conducted in Wendy Jerome’s murder.

In July 2020, familial search results from the New York state crime lab generated new leads, which were narrowed down to possible suspects, according to Umbrino.

Law enforcement confirmed Williams’ involvement with an additional DNA sample, District Attorney Sandra Doorley said,

Capt. Umbrino said that Williams, who was 20 when Wendy was killed, moved to Florida a short time after the brutal slaying. Williams, who is currently not employed, has reportedly visited Rochester several times in the past 35 years, he said.

“He did not know the victim, nor did the victim’s family know him,” Umbrino said, adding that the department is investigating whether Williams has been linked to any other cold cases. To date, he said, he was not. 

In a tearful speech, the victim’s mother thanked the police department for finally making a breakthrough in her daughter’s case.

“I never thought I would see this day, and now it’s here,” Marlene Jerome said. “I just wish my husband had been alive to see this. He passed away in 2011 and I know he’s up there with her and they’re smiling, saying, ‘It’s over, it’s finally over.'”

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