Updated: November 24, 2020 06:24 PM
Created: November 24, 2020 01:03 PM
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — It's a case for the history books. A man is sitting in the Monroe County Jail accused of killing a 14-year-old girl in Rochester 36 years ago.
Wendy Jerome would be 50 years old if she were alive today. Her mother, Marlene Jerome, spoke with News10NBC's Nikki Rudd in her first sit-down interview since the arrest.
"All I heard was those words: 'We got him,'" Marlene recalled.
Three words that changed her life.
"It's still sinking in," Marlene said. "I know. I can say the words. I can hear the words, but it's still sinking into me."
Back in September, Rochester Police broke the news.
"Marlene, I'm sorry it took so long, but we finally did it," Rochester Police Capt. Frank Umbrino said through tears at a press conference.
Marlene also broke down in tears. It was the news she'd been waiting decades to hear.
Timothy Lee Williams was arrested. He was connected to the case through his own DNA.
"Thirty-six years of this and then going to okay. We found him? He's alive?" Marlene asked.
It was a shock. Another surprise? During our investigation, News10NBC found out Williams actually lived in Wendy's Beechwood neighborhood back in 1984. His home was on Rosewood Terrace, just blocks from the scene of the crime.
"Had you ever heard this name? Did you know this man?" Rudd asked.
"Not at all," Marlene said while shaking her head. "Not at all."
On Thanksgiving Day 1984, Wendy, a freshman at Edison Tech High School, left her family's home on Denver Street in Rochester to see a friend. She never came back.
Her body was found behind School No. 33 on Webster Avenue. She had been raped, brutally beaten, and her throat was slit.
"He covered it all up...acted like nothing ever happened," Marlene said.
Williams would have been 20 years old at the time of the crime. Now he's 56 and charged with murder.
Records show Williams lived in Rochester for years after Wendy's murder, but he also had family in Florida. At the time of his arrest, he lived at a house in Melbourne.
"Evidently, he didn't care," Marlene said. "He went on with this life. He had a family."
Rochester Police say this is the first case in New York state solved through familial DNA. Investigators had been trying to get the New York State Police Crime Lab to do the search since 2017.
Click here to see our story on how News10NBC helped push for the testing in Wendy's case.
Just months after our story aired, the familial DNA results were in. Researchers found a family member in the state database that led them to Williams.
"It's not something that I thought I would live to see, ok?" Marlene said.
"You never gave up," Rudd said.
"No," Marlene replied. "Not one minute. Not one minute."
A lot of questions are still unanswered. Many people are wondering if Williams committed any other crimes. News10NBC did some digging.
In New York, Williams has been charged with assault, criminal mischief, and DWI. Records show charges in Florida back in 1992 for trespass, assault, and battery. Other charges in the Sunshine State include carrying a concealed weapon, forgery, resisting arrest, and fraud.
Now, Williams is facing three counts of murder in the second degree from on or about Nov. 22, 1984, and these new charges aren't going anywhere.
"I'm not ready to look at his face," Marlene told us.
She has had a hard time even seeing Williams in our reports.
"He kept looking in the camera," Marlene said. "It was like he was looking right at me, and it just gave me the creeps."
Marlene says this year, Thanksgiving will be different. Thirty-six years after her daughter was so brutally taken away, she's closer to justice.
"We'll never get over missing her," Marlene said. "Never get over everything that was taken from all of us. "We can't bring her back. All we can do is keep her memories alive."
Williams is scheduled to stand trial starting June 7, 2021.
Meantime, the Rochester Police Department continues to investigate if Williams could be connected to any other crimes in Rochester. News10NBC will keep you updated.
News10NBC also reached out to Williams' attorney. He had no comment.
Click here to see our story with Marlene from November 2019.
Click here to see our report that aired the day after Wendy was killed in 1984.
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