(CNN)DNA testing led to the arrest of man in the 35-year-old killing of a girl in Rochester, New York, police and prosecutors said in an emotional press conference on Friday.
Wendy Jerome, 14, was raped and killed while delivering a birthday card in her neighborhood on Thanksgiving Day 1984 and her body was found by a pedestrian near a school dumpster that night with “obvious signs of trauma,” said Rochester police Capt. Frank Umbrino.Timothy 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.In a tearful speech, Jerome’s mother thanked the police department for the lengths it went to solve the 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.'”Read MoreIn 1999, DNA extracted from semen collected during an autopsy was uploaded to the FBI’s DNA database, but had no matches, Umbrino said. In 2017, 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 to see if there was a match with the extracted DNA or anyone that might be related.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, declining to discuss the evidence further.Williams lived in Jerome’s neighborhood in 1984 and would have been 20 at the time of the Jerome’s death, according to Umbrino.Williams had no defense attorney in Florida, where he waived extradition in Florida, according to the Brevard County Clerk of Court’s office. He now awaits extradition to New York, where he will be arraigned in Rochester City Court for second-degree murder, Hahn said.Investigators had found the case particularly meaningful, often continuing to assist after leaving the department, Umbrino said. One officer had participated in the investigation since the initial report. Some, like Hahn, had been children at the time of the murder, and remembered it vividly.”Wendy’s story helped to shape me into the prosecutor I am today,” Hahn said.Umbrino choked back tears as he recounted investigators visiting Jerome’s mother on Thursday night to inform her that Williams had been arrested.”Marlene, I’m sorry it took so long, but we finally did it,” Umbrino said, his voice cracking, as he embraced her.