Exclusive: DNA Helps Crack East Harlem Cold Case Killing Of Pregnant Mom

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — There was relief mixed with rage in a Manhattan courtroom Monday after a family faced an accused killer following a 13-year wait.

WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell On The Case

Six of Joyce Williams’ surviving children were in court on Monday as 49-year-old John Price was charged with her murder. Prosecutors said DNA helped them crack the cold case. It also turns out that Williams was four months pregnant when she was killed in 1998.

Arlene Lidge, 20, thought of her unborn sibling and the mother she could barely remember. Williams was left naked on the roof of a building at the Wagner Houses in East Harlem.

“I always wanted to know what this monster – cause that’s what I call him, a monster — always wanted to know what he looked like and I want to know why he did this to her,” the victim’s daughter, Joy Williams, told CBS 2’s Tony Aiello.

“Cold cases, unsolved homicides, shouldn’t be forgotten cases and both our office and the NYPD understand that,” Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, Jr. said.

Vance Jr. says Manhattan’s Cold Case unit is working through hundreds of unsolved murders and submitting old evidence to the DNA lab, which uses new techniques to see if there’s a hit in the DNA database. When cold case investigators got to the Joyce Williams file, they found scrapings taken from underneath the victim’s fingernails. It was too little to test for DNA back then, but not today.

The results were an immediate match to John Price, who was doing time for another murder and a string of sex assaults from 1998 — the year Joyce Williams was killed.

Williams’ children say they are grateful for the dogged efforts by police and prosecutors. “Wow, they really, these guys was working on the cases, and I really, really want to thank them,from the bottom of my heart — truly,” Lidge said.

The District Attorney supports Governor Andrew Cuomo’s bill to expand DNA collection in New York, which calls for taking a sample from everyone convicted of a crime, including many misdemeanors.

Do you think DNA collection should play a larger role in fighting crime? Share your thoughts in the comments section…

  • TheSheriff

    DNA should be collected from EVERYONE that applies for a social security number. If you are not a criminal, you will be just fine in your travels on Earth. But if you are a criminal, you better be a clean one.
    While we’re at it, make the death penalty conviction to execution 3 years MAX where DNA is conclusive in the crime.

  • lance

    this doesn’t include violations, jane, so those scenarios would not be DNA eligible….

  • arlene lidge

    Rest in peace mommy I miss you!!

  • Jane

    What are the misdemeanors they are proposing would fall under this plan? It’s scary to think the government could be this invasive to, let’s say, a teenager just loitering in the evening or a family man drunk one night out with his buddies relieving himself outside. Not all “crimes” are perpetrated by criminals.

    • TheSheriff

      You’re confused.
      A criminal can be a drunk family man peeing out in public (a misdemeanor act), but a teenager loitering in a non-loitering zone is a nuisance to businesses and can elevate to a misdemeanor if the teenager so chooses.
      But having your DNA on file is irrelevant in either scenario. It is there for comparison in crimes. When it comes up and matches a crime scene, get a lawyer and prepare to stand tall before the man.

  • Collette Collis

    I believe DNA should in fact play a major role in our criminal justice system. I feel this way because it is the best tool to convict someone of a crime as well as exonerate a person . Eyewitness accounts can be flawed or false. DNA does not lie!!

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