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Police using DNA data make arrest in teen's 1984 rape and murder

More than three decades after a 14-year-old girl was found raped and brutally murdered in Rochester, New York, police armed with a DNA match arrested a Florida man in connection to the cold case. 

Timothy Williams, 56, faces second-degree murder charges in the Thanksgiving Day 1984 killing of Wendy Jerome. 

He was arrested at his home in Melbourne, Florida, last Wednesday, and authorities are bringing him to New York, Rochester officials announced at an emotional news conference on Friday.

Timothy Williams

Wendy Jerome

Timothy Williams, 56 (left), has been arrested in Florida in connection to the 1984 rape and murder of 14-year-old Wendy Jerome (right) in Rochester, New York 

'It's finally over': Wendy's mother, Marlene Jerome, spoke at a press conference in Rochester last week, saying through tears that she never thought this day would come

‘It’s finally over’: Wendy’s mother, Marlene Jerome, spoke at a press conference in Rochester last week, saying through tears that she never thought this day would come 

Familial DNA information provided a list of names, including that of Williams, as investigative leads, police said. 

WESH2 reported that he made his initial court appearance on Thursday and waived his right to an extradition hearing.  

Marlene Jerome, who worked with police investigating her daughter’s death for more than three decades, told reporters she thought she’d never see this day.

‘I just wish my husband was alive to see this,’ she said through tears, as Democrat and Chronicle reported. ‘He died in 2011. And I know he’s up there, with her, smiling and saying it’s over. It’s finally over.’

Wendy Jerome left a friend’s house in Rochester on the evening of November 22, 1984, after delivering a birthday card, but never made it home. 

Her body was found a few hours later in an alcove of a school located just three blocks from her home.

Wendy left a friend’s house in Rochester on the evening of November 22, 1984, but never made it home

Her body was found a few hours later just three blocks from her home

Wendy left a friend’s house in Rochester on the evening of November 22, 1984, but never made it home. Her body was found a few hours later just three blocks from her home 

Wendy was raped, repeatedly stabbed and beaten to death, despite her efforts to fight back.  

Williams was about 20 years old at the time and lived in the same neighborhood as his alleged victim. The Rochester native moved to Florida shortly after the killing, police said. 

‘He did not know the victim, nor did the victim’s family know him,’ Rochester Police Capt. Frank Umbrino said. 

Over the past 20 years, several attempts have been made to identify the suspect through DNA evidence.

In 1999, investigators submitted a DNA sample from semen collected during the autopsy to the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System, but it failed to produce a match, CNN reported.

Police arrested Williams at his home in Melbourne, Florida (pictured), on September 9

Police arrested Williams at his home in Melbourne, Florida (pictured), on September 9

Williams is pictured making his initial court appearance last week

Williams is pictured making his initial court appearance last week 

In 2017, after New York legislators passed a law allowing law enforcement agencies to use DNA to look for a suspect’s relatives, the Rochester Police Department asked the state crime lab to conduct a familial DNA search using evidence from the scene. 

The search suffered an initial setback when lab officials told police that the sample they had submitted did not meet testing requirements. 

In April of last year, police submitted a sample that could be tested. This past July, the lab was able to develop a familial profile that generated a list of names, which police narrowed down to possible suspects, among them Williams, according to Urbino. 

District Attorney Sandra Doorley said an additional DNA sample from Williams confirmed his connection to Jerome’s killing, but she declined to say how that sample was collected.  

Rochester Police Capt. Frank Umbrino told Wendy's mother: 'Marlene, I'm sorry it took so long, but we finally did it'

Rochester Police Capt. Frank Umbrino told Wendy’s mother: ‘Marlene, I’m sorry it took so long, but we finally did it’ 

Little information is available on Williams, beyond the fact that he had traveled between Rochester, New York, and Florida over the years and was unemployed. He has not been linked to any other crimes in either state.  

Umbrino fought back tears as he recounted how police arrived at the home of Wendy’s mother last week to tell her of Williams’ arrest. 

‘Marlene, I’m sorry it took so long, but we finally did it,’ Umbrino said, addressing the sobbing woman standing behind him before sharing an embrace.

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