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DNA Triggers Arrest in 35-Year-Old Cold Case

Officials and family hold an emotional press conference in Rochester
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 12, 2020 4:30 PM CDT

(Newser) – Wendy Jerome was brutally raped, killed, and left by a dumpster 35 years ago—a crime officials say has finally been solved with DNA testing, CNN reports. The news emerged at an emotional press conference Friday in Rochester, New York. "I never thought I would see this day, and now it's here," said Wendy's mother, Marlene Jerome. "I just wish my husband had been alive to see this." Suspect Timothy Williams, 56, was arrested Wednesday at his residence in Melbourne, Florida, and charged with second-degree murder, the Democrat & Chronicle reports. Officials relied on DNA taken from semen during an autopsy, but a 1999 search on the FBI's DNA database came up cold. Then came a "familial DNA" test.

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Approved by New York law in 2017, familial DNA searches can identify the suspect's family members and generate new leads. In this case, officials say Williams lived near Wendy when she vanished on Thanksgiving Day 1984 while delivering a birthday card to her closest friend. The 14-year-old died "from massive blunt force trauma as well as multiple lacerations about her body," said Rochester Police Capt. Frank Umbrino at the press conference, per 13WHAM. "Honestly the extent of the injuries are too horrendous to talk about here. What it is safe to say is that Wendy did put up a fight." His voice breaking, he added: "Marlene, I'm sorry it took so long, but we finally did it," and embraced her. Officials say Williams was later confirmed with a second DNA sample. (Read more cold cases stories.)

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