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Nadine Slade was just 15 years old when she was found naked and strangled to death with her bra in 1992. Over 30 years later, law enforcement in the New York City borough of Queens claim to have finally found the man responsible for the crime.
Jerry Lewis, 58, who hails from Virginia, stands accused of murder in the second degree over the slaying. He was indicted and arraigned on Monday, according to the Queens District Attorney’s Office.
The incident occurred on May 7, 1992. Her mother discovered Slade’s body in a bathroom shared by two apartments in the multi-family home in Far Rockaway, an aptly-named and far-flung beachside community near Brooklyn and the Atlantic Ocean. It is considered the easternmost part of the Rockaway peninsula.
Lewis “and others” had been inside the adjoining apartment – the one that used the same bathroom – the night before the murder, according to the DA’s office. The victim and her alleged killer are not believed to have known one another before the murder.
Cold for years, the case was recently reopened by the DA’s office and the NYPD. Last year, the joint investigation requested the New York City Medical Examiner’s Office to test for DNA under the victim’s preserved fingernail clippings. That genetic testing was the break that had long eluded law enforcement.
According to Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz, the DNA test results linked Lewis to the crime. In response to an inquiry from Law&Crime, a spokesperson for the DA’s office said the defendant’s DNA turned up in CODIS, a nationwide DNA database maintained by the FBI.
The investigation into Slade’s death also included multiple witness interviews and extensive searches of records, the DA’s office said. At least six people were assigned to the team investigating the case.
“Any mother’s worst nightmare is to survive a child,” Katz said in a statement. “To lose a child in such a horrific way causes unimaginable pain. Not knowing who committed the crime compounds the suffering. In the end, we hope to achieve justice for Nadine and bring closure and some measure of solace to her bereaved mother.”
According to the New York Daily News, the judge overseeing the case pointed out that the defendant has long used several aliases.
“How did we pick Jerry Lewis?” Holder reportedly asked him – perhaps bemused by the similarity to the seminal popular music legend.
“That’s my name,” Lewis reportedly answered. “I don’t even know what’s going on.”
The defendant is being held without bail. After his arraignment, Queens Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Holder ordered Lewis to return to court for another hearing on June 7. If convicted as currently charged, Lewis faces up to 25 years to life in prison.
He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
According to Gothamist, the defendant is being represented by attorney Russell Rothberg – who has reportedly declined to comment.
Several of Slade’s relatives sat in on the initial courtroom proceedings, according to the Daily News. The murdered girl’s brother reportedly watched. Her sister reportedly kept her head down and cried.
“We’re just glad he got caught,” her brother told the paper.
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