cold case

Cold Case Murder on Long Island Solved After 42-Year Mystery

The investigation into the March 1980 murder changed when a DNA sample from the original crime scene led to the killer's relative, whose DNA had been posted on a public genealogy website

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Eve Wilkowitz, of Long Island, was murdered in 1980. For more than four decades, it was an unsolved crime, as the case went cold.

But now — 42 years later — Wilkowitz's sister finally got the answer to a question she has been asking all these years: Who could have killed her sister?

Photos are all Irene Wilkowitz has had left to remember to remember her older sister. But on Wednesday, it was a police photo that sparked her already raw emotions.

The picture was of the man Suffolk County investigators believe killed Eve in March 1980.

"This is my first time seeing him," she said. "The last face eve saw while she was still alive."

Eve Wilkowitz had taken a Long Island Rail Road train home to Bay Shore from her secretary’s job in New York City, but her walk home ended in tragedy. The 20-year-old with a bright smile was found murdered three days later, having been raped and strangled.

"I pray that nobody else has to go through this type of ordeal," said Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison. He said investigators who never stopped looking for an answer finally brought the ordeal to an end.

"We’ve identified the perpetrator of that crime as Herbert Rice," Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney announced Wednesday.

Tierney said Rice was a Bay Shore resident but never a suspect. That all changed when a DNA sample from the original crime scene led to a Rice family member whose DNA had been posted on a public genealogy website.

"That showed that that individual was related to the perpetrator of the crime," Tierney said.

The city's most infamous cold case, the 1957 murder of an unidentified child in Northeast Philadelphia deemed "Boy in the Box," has a major development. NBC10 reporter Claudia Vargas talked to Philadelphia's homicide detective about the break in the case.

But there was a problem: Herbert Rice died of natural causes in 1990. Earlier in March, prosecutors exhumed his body. Days later, they learned that Rice’s DNA matched the sample from the murder scene.

"I still can’t believe I heard those words," Irene Wilkowitz said, expressing relief as the mystery that haunted her life had been solved, at long last.

"I never allowed myself to dream dreams because I thought I would die young also," she said. "Thank you all. Thank you."

Wilkowitz also thanked the Rice family for cooperating with investigators. The family couldn’t be reached on Wednesday, but police said Herbert Rice is not a suspect in any other homicides.

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