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Prosecutor: N.J. Cold Case Killing Cracked After Tip From Massachusetts Woman

Arnell Yearwood, 26, was arrested Monday in connection with the killing of Diane Zaleski in 2010. (credit: CBS 2)

Arnell Yearwood, 26, was arrested Monday in connection with the killing of Diane Zaleski in 2010. (credit: CBS 2)

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ELIZABETH, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A cold case was cracked in New Jersey on Monday.

After a 17-month investigation came up empty, a tip from an unlikely source has police believing they have solved the murder of 55-year-old Diane Zaleski.

Arnell Yearwood, 26, described by police as a drifter, was arrested for the brutal murder of Zaleski, who was stabbed to death in her Union Township home in November 2010.

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“The past 17 months have been absolute hell for our family,” said the victim’s niece, Marisa Iannarone.

The Union County Homicide Task Force was tipped off by a woman in Massachusetts, who had been in contact with Yearwood on Facebook. She found out about the Zaleski case, took information the suspect had given her over the Internet and called police.

But authorities said they received no help from Facebook in tracking Yearwood down.

“Facebook has been known to disregard law enforcement and this was a horrible example of a lack of cooperation on the part of Facebook and they should wise up and do what’s right,” Union County Prosecutor Theodore Romankow said.

Authorities were eventually able to get a phone number for Yearwood, and, with the help of New Jersey State Police, the suspect was arrested Saturday at a house in Union Township, where he was removing carpet.

Yearwood’s mother lives across the street from Zaleski’s house and he had used Zaleski’s computer while he was in her home. According to police, Yearwood left forensic evidence that linked him to the crime.

Zaleski had been reportedly renovating her home at the time of her death, but officials did not say if they think Zaleski knew Yearwood or whether he was helping with the renovation.

diane zaleski Prosecutor: N.J. Cold Case Killing Cracked After Tip From Massachusetts Woman

Diane Zaleski (credit: Personal Photo)

“His inconceivable actions have been haunting us endlessly and now we can turn our focus to the courts and ensure that he never sees the light of day again,” Iannarone said.

Yearwood remained in police custody Monday. He’s being held on $1 million bail.

The Union County Prosecutor’s Office said it is continuing its investigation, but currently has no motive for the murder.

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