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Inside the Evidence: Rochester teen raped and killed 35 years ago

Nikki Rudd
Updated: November 25, 2019 12:42 PM
Created: November 21, 2019 02:29 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — On Nov. 22, 1984, a crime was committed in Rochester that many people will never forget. A 14-year-old girl was raped and beaten to death. 

Her body was found near an elementary school. The homicide has never been solved.

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News10NBC's Nikki Rudd found out investigators are hoping a new tool will help track down the killer. 

"It hurts," Marlene Jerome said. "It will never go away."

Marlene's daughter, Wendy, had just turned 14. She was a freshman at Edison Tech High School, and one day wanted to be a cosmetologist. 

"I know she was beaten very badly," Marlene said. "She was partially dressed. Whoever it was covered her face with a jacket."

Marlene moved away decades ago from the Beechwood neighborhood in Rochester where her daughter was killed on Thanksgiving night 1984. Marlene says she remembers everything about that night. 

Wendy had asked to visit her friend, Susie, who lived just a few blocks away. Her father, Wayne, said she could go, but her curfew was at 8 p.m. Wendy never made it home. 

Wendy had been raped about a quarter-mile from her own house. Her body was found in an alcove at School 33 on Webster Avenue. Her throat had been slit, but that's not what killed her. Investigators say she was beaten to death. 

Rochester Police investigators still have the suspect's DNA from Wendy's underwear. They know the suspect is an African American male. However, DNA didn't match anyone in CODIS, the FBI's combined DNA index system. 

Now investigators are hoping a new tool will crack the case: a familial DNA search. This was approved by New York State in 2017. DNA can be submitted to the state crime lab to see if any offenders in the state DNA data bank could be related to the suspect. 

"She was the second one on the list that was submitted for New York State," Marlene said. 

However, Rochester Police investigators say there was a problem. About a year later, they found out the sample did not meet requirements. They say a full profile of the DNA was extracted and resubmitted this past April. 

According to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), the cases are processed in the order they're received. That means Wendy's case was bumped to the bottom of the list. 

"Let somebody else wait awhile, and let's try to get this thing solved, so I know," Marlene said. "Is the guy still alive? Is he dead?"

There's no guarantee a familial DNA search could lead to the killer, but Marlene is hopeful and has been waiting 35 years for justice. 

"It will never go away, but can I get some answers before I die? Her father died without knowing. I don't want that for me," Marlene said. 

So when could Marlene get some answers? News10NBC reached out to the DCJS and the New York State Police (NYSP) crime lab.  

We found out the first familial DNA case was tested in New York state in March 2018. Since then only nine are completed. One is in progress. Another nine are waiting to be done, and four are pending with DCJS. 

News10NBC asked what's taking so long? The DCJS referred that question to the NYSP, which is responsible for testing. However, DCJS officials provided this response about its role, which is limited to processing applications received by law enforcement:

“The familial search application process is confidential by design because we don't want to do anything to jeopardize a case that is open and/or under active investigation. In each of these cases, there are families and loved ones who have been waiting for years for answers and law enforcement professionals seeking to solve these crimes. Processing applications as they are submitted by law enforcement agencies is the fairest, fastest and most efficient way for DCJS to review them, determine which meet the required criteria and then forward those to the State Police for testing.”

NYSP officials told News10NBC familial searching is a complex, multi-step process. Each case takes approximately 30 days to complete from the start of testing. However, NYSP officials say they aren’t able to discuss specific cases. 

For that information, they said we would have to contact the lead agency. So News10NBC contacted the lead agency, Rochester Police. RPD investigators say they reached out for an update on Jerome’s case and when it would be tested and couldn’t get an answer either. 

If you have any information on who killed Wendy Jerome, call Crime Stoppers at (585) 423-9300. 

Click here to watch our Web Extra on this story. 


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