ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley was joined by members of the Rochester Police Department’s Major Crimes Unit to announce a major break in a cold case murder investigation regarding Wendy Jerome in 1984.
“Today we are proud to share with you that 56 -year-old Timothy Williams has been arrested in Melbourne, Forida for the alleged rape and murder of Wendy Jerome,” Doorley said. “This arrest was made possible after years of DNA testing.”
“Thanksgiving Day, November 24, 1984: Wendy Jerome left her Denver Street home around 7 that evening,” said RPD Captain Frank Umbrino. “She was going to deliver a birthday card to her best friend that lived in that neighborhood. At about 10:40 p.m. officers of the RPD responded to 500 block Webster Avenue for the report of a dead child next to a dumpster. Honestly the extent of the injuries are too horrendous to talk about here, but what is safe to say is that Wendy did put up a fight. The case went cold, but it was certainly never forgotten, even as investigators who worked the case over the decades retired, others picked up the fight.”
Umbrino said police were able to extract DNA profile from semen that was collected during an autopsy. That DNA was provided by CODIS, which went operational in 1998, but had no hits. Then in 2017, New York State approved the use of familial DNA testing for law enforcement use.
“Every time technology advanced, somebody again would review the case,” Umbrino said. “Finally, this June we received familial search results.”
The police captain said Williams is in the process of being extradited back to Rochester so the prosecution can commence. Williams is to be arraigned in Rochester on a second degree murder charge.
“It’s extremely difficult to get up here today and try to describe the exhaustive efforts that took place,” Umbrino said.
“I would like to thank everyone in this department who has gone lengths to do this for us,” said Marlene Jerome, Wendy’s mother. “Since day one they have been by my side and in contact with me, I can’t thank them enough. Not to mention everyone behind the scenes. I never thought I would see this day and now we’re here. I just wish my husband were alive to see this. He passed away in 2011 and I know hes up there with her. It’s over, it’s finally over.”
“We finally did it”
Umbrino credited the DNA technology for helping them make this arrest. He said this case was either the first or second in the state to file for familial DNA processing.
“We spend a lot of money on a lot of things that is a waste, but we have this technology that is just phenomenal,” Umbrino said. “And how this state does not devote more resources and more time and more personnel to focus in on the DNA tech that is out there is mind-boggling to me.”
Umbrino said Williams did live in the Rochester neighborhood at the time of the crime, and moved to Florida shortly after. Officials say he did not know the victim and was not an initial suspect in the investigation.
News 8 Archive: 1984 coverage of Wendy Jerome murder
“Poor Marlene, what she’s gone through the last four decades almost and to be able to finally answer some of the questions that she’s had, that’s why guys and gals become police officers — that’s why we do the job,” Umbrino said.
Regarding the the ongoing community police-community tension in the wake of Daniel Prude’s death, the police captain said this arrest proves the dedication of the department.
“The ship keeps sailing,” Umbrino said. “Anybody that questions the dedication and commitment of the over 700 officers in this department needs to do a gut check because they don’t know what they’re talking about.”
Full press conference
This is a developing story. News 8 WROC will provide information as it becomes available.