Timothy Williams takes the stand in trial of 1984 murder; Jury will resume deliberations Friday

Cold case murder trial now in jury’s hands

Cold case murder trial now in jury's hands

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Timothy Williams, the man on trial in the 1984 murder of a 14-year-old girl in Rochester, took the stand on Thursday.

On Thanksgiving night in 1984, Wendy Jerome went to deliver a birthday card to a friend, but she never made it back to her Denver Street home. 

Her body was found that night outside school 33 on Webster Avenue. Police say Jerome had been brutally and violently assaulted, had fractured her skull and broken her nose, had severe bruising and lacerations, and had even lost a tooth.

Williams had been questioned at the time of the murder, but claimed he didn’t know Wendy. The case went cold for 40 years, until forensic analysts identified Williams as a suspect in 2020.

News10NBC’s Hailie Higgins was in the courtroom as he testified. Williams claimed he and Wendy had had a consensual relationship and had been having sex for weeks leading up to her murder. She had just turned 14 at time. Williams, who was 19, told the jury he thought she was 16. 

This is how his DNA ended up on Wendy’s body, he claimed. He also claimed that the fact that he was allegedly sleeping with an underaged teen is also why he lied to police when asked if he knew Wendy. 

In his testimony Williams claimed that Thanksgiving night, he’d gone to a family function in his neighborhood. When he came home to get something, he said he found Wendy waiting at his door. He claims the two had consensual sex, and then left his house, heading in the opposite direction of one another. 

When police questioned Williams in 2020 in Florida — where Williams was living — he told them he didn’t know Wendy, and he hadn’t even been living in Rochester at the time of the murder. He admitted on the stand that both statements were lies. 

Ahead of her closing statement, District Attorney Sandra Doorley said the following:

“My argument will be if you’ve lied to the police on at least two occasions, what are you saying to this jury? Is what you are saying believable? […] I’m very confident after my cross examination. I don’t believe his story made any sense whatsoever. But ultimately, it’s up to the jury to decide whether or not they believe it. But I believe the credible evidence that has been placed before the jury during the course of the trial is so contradictory towards what his testimony was.”

The defense maintained that the key piece of evidence linking Williams to the crime was his DNA, which Williams claimed got there consensually. Prosecutors argue that Wendy’s injuries show she was attacked, and that the only DNA on her body indicating an attacker belongs to Williams.

After brief closing arguments, the 12-person jury heard lengthy instructions on how to deliberate and determine Williams’ guilt or innocence on his charges. He is facing three counts of murder. 

The jury briefly deliberated for about a half an hour on Thursday evening, before being sent home for the day. Deliberations will resume first thing Friday morning. 

This is the second time for this trial. The last judge, Thomas Moran, called a mistrial due to juror misconduct in December.