“I never thought I would see this day, and now it’s here,” said Wendy Jerome's mother at a press conference Friday

By Christine Pelisek
September 14, 2020 03:43 PM
Wendy Jerome
Upstate New York Missing Persons

Almost 36 years later, Rochester police made an arrest in the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl who disappeared on Thanksgiving day while delivering a birthday card in her neighborhood.

Timothy Williams, 56, is charged with second-degree murder in the Nov. 22, 1984, death of Wendy Jerome after a familial DNA search allegedly linked him to the crime.

“I never thought I would see this day, and now it’s here,” said Wendy’s mother Marlene Jerome at a press conference Friday. “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.’”

Police said Wendy left her Rochester home at 7 p.m. Thanksgiving evening to deliver a birthday card to her best friend, who lived in the neighborhood.

“Wendy had an 8 p.m. curfew,” said Rochester Police Department Capt. Frank Umbrino at the press conference. “8 p.m. rolled around and Wendy didn’t come home.”

Timothy Williams
Brevard County Sheriff's Office

At 10:40 p.m. officers found Wendy dead next to a school dumpster. She was partially covered up and died from massive blunt force trauma.

“Wendy did put up a fight,” said Umbrino.

Williams, who was 20 years old at the time of the crime and lived in the neighborhood, left the area and moved to Florida soon after the murder, Umbrino said.

“He did not know the victim,” he said.

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The case went cold. In 2000, police uploaded DNA from the crime scene into the FBI's DNA database, but there were no hits.

In 2019, police tried a familial DNA search – the same type of search used to nab Grim Sleeper suspect Lonnie Franklin Jr. – and they were finally able to narrow down a list of suspects.

Williams was taken into custody at his Florida home Wednesday. He was arraigned as a fugitive on Thursday and will be extradited to Rochester.

He has yet to be arraigned on the murder charge.

“Marlene,” Umbrino said, looking at Wendy’s mother. “I’m sorry it took so long. But we finally did it.”