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Inside the Evidence Update: Rochester Police closer to catching a killer?

Nikki Rudd
Updated: February 05, 2020 11:39 PM
Created: February 05, 2020 05:55 AM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — News10NBC has an update on a cold case we told you about back in November. We're talking about the brutal rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl in Rochester 35 years ago. News10NBC's Nikki Rudd found out police could be closer to catching the killer. 

If you lived in Rochester in the 1980s you probably remember the Wendy Jerome case. The high school freshman was murdered on Thanksgiving night in 1984. 

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"Who do you think killed Wendy Jerome?" Nikki Rudd asked Rochester Police Investigator John Brennan. 

"Somebody close with the devil," said Brennan. "This was bad. This was a child."

After Thanksgiving dinner with her family, Wendy got permission to go to her best friend's house in their Beechwood neighborhood. She never made it home. Her body was found in an alcove by School 33 on Webster Avenue in Rochester just a quarter-mile from Wendy's home. 

Investigator Brennan showed News10NBC pictures from the crime scene, but most of them are too disturbing to share on television. Wendy was raped and her throat was slit, but that's not what killed her. Investigators say she was beaten to death.

"I know she's gone, and we can't bring her back," said Wendy's mother Marlene Jerome. 
  
News10NBC spoke with Marlene last November. She's frustrated the man who raped and killed her daughter has never been caught. 

"Is the guy still alive? Is he dead? All these questions that go through my head," Jerome said. 

Investigator Brennan is also frustrated. 

"I'm just disgusted with the system," Brennan said. "I think the system's a joke." 

Here's why: investigators have the suspect's DNA. However, they've been waiting on the State Police Crime Lab in Albany to test it. 

Brennan says it's a piece of evidence that could possibly point them in the right direction to "get the animal that killed this young woman."

"They have it. I need an answer," Brennan said.  

Here's the deal: it's not your average DNA test. The DNA, in this case, didn't match anyone who has submitted DNA from past crimes. 

"The state just started within the last couple years testing DNA to see if they can connect it to a family member," Brennan said. 
 
A family member who may have DNA in the system. RPD first submitted the DNA for a familial search back in November 2017. About a year later (September 2018), they found out the sample did not meet state requirements for the testing. So they did more work and re-submitted it last April.

"Now I think we're on a waitlist," Brennan said. 

After multiple calls and emails from RPD and News10NBC, State Police finally gave investigators an answer on where the case stands. They say it will be tested within six months. That will be about two-and-a-half years after it was initially submitted.

"I'm telling you the runaround, it's disgusting in this case. It's disgusting," Brennan said. 

So what's taking so long? News10NBC took that question to state officials. An NYSP spokesperson says the cases are done in the order they're received. We're also told the familial DNA search is a complex process that takes about 30 days for each case. 

"We have families out here that need answers, and we can't get them answers," Brennan said. 

At least not yet. That could change in a matter of months, but remember: Wendy was killed 35 years ago. 

"Do you think the suspect is still alive?" Rudd asked.

"I don't know," Brennan said. "Half of me, I hope he's dead and rotting in hell. The other half, I want to put you in jail." 

Stay tuned. News10NBC will be tracking this case along with RPD. 

If you have any information on the rape and murder of Wendy Jerome, call Crime Stoppers at (585) 423-9300. 

Click here to watch our story with Wendy Jerome's mother. 

Click here to watch our Web Extra on this case. 


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