James Burrus, 64, is charged with killing legal secretary Lorraine Snell, who was found strangled in the back of a station wagon

By KC Baker
March 13, 2020 02:03 PM

On Sept. 25, 1980, 19-year-old Lorraine Snell stopped by a Brooklyn, New York, catering hall to make plans for her upcoming engagement party.

Excited about her future, the young legal secretary from the Flatbush neighborhood left the Midwood Terrace restaurant – and was never seen alive again.

Twelve hours later, her body was found in the back of a station wagon parked behind a supermarket in East Flatbush with a cable wrapped around her neck, local station PIX11 reports.

The medical examiner ruled that she had been strangled, PIX11 reports.

For years, police suspected her cousin’s estranged husband, James Burrus, who leads a storefront ministry on Staten Island, the Staten Island Advance reports.

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On Thursday, nearly 40 years after Snell’s tragic murder, Burrus, now 64, of Staten Island, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder, PIX 11, which has been following the story for years, reports.

James Burrus
| Credit: PIX 11 News/ Youtube

He was indicted by a grand jury on Thursday, the Staten Island Advance reports.

“Oh my God! Thank you, Jesus,” Snell’s mother, Pearl Snell-Holder, now 82, said when a PIX11 reporter told her Burrus had been arrested and charged with killing her daughter.

“It’s been 39 and a half years,” she said. “Lorraine got her justice.”

Tapping into advances in DNA technology, Rachel Singer, who heads the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Forensic Science and Cold Case Unit, worked with the NYPD to link DNA from underneath Snell’s nails to Burrus, PIX11 reports.

On the night Snell went to the catering hall, Burrus was seen walking out of the venue with her, PIX11 reports.

“We did leave the building together,” Burrus told PIX 11 in 2014. “I walked her, I believe it was, on Clarendon Road. A few blocks from her house, I went one way, and I watched her go up by her block.”

Burrus, who’d just gotten out of prison in August 1980 for a prior robbery, robbed a taxi stand on the night Snell went missing, WPIX 11 reported.

He returned to prison for the armed robbery and was released in 1985, opening his own church after that.

On Thursday, Burrus appeared in Brooklyn Supreme Court, where a judge ordered him held without bail.

He is scheduled to return to court on March 24. He has not yet entered a plea. It is unclear whether he has retained an attorney who can speak on his behalf.

Snell’s mother is relieved that Burrus is behind bars.

“Forty years is a long time,” she told reporters outside court on Thursday, the Daily News reports.

“But everything worked out,” she said. “It will always be hard. Always. I’m a mother. I bear the pain… I will never forget. Never forget. It’s justice for her but not closure for me.”