A break in the case came recently in the form of a DNA test by a relative. It enabled police and the FBI to submit DNA left on Eve Wilkowitz’s body to consumer DNA databases that include countless people outside the criminal justice system.
Through that search, authorities were able to identify Herbert Rice, as the likely suspect.
Earlier this month, police obtained a warrant to exhume Rice’s body from a cemetery in Bay Shore.
Investigators took a sample of the bone from Rice’s corpse to extract the DNA. They said it was a match to the DNA from Rice’s body.
“We’ve solved the 42-year-old homicide case of Eve Wilkowitz,” Suffolk District Attorney Raymond Tierney announced at a news conference. “This was a study in persistence, in determination to work the case no matter what.”
In March of 1980, Wilkowitz’s body was found near the Bay Shore train station.
The victim was a 20-year-old secretary who worked in New York City and was on her way home from work when she was raped and strangled.
On Wednesday, Suffolk County police and prosecutors announced that Rice, who died of natural causes in 1991, was the killer. He had lived near the spot where Wilkowitz’s body was found three days after she never came home.
Wilkowitz’s sister, Irene, thanked the investigators and recalled, through tears, when detectives knocked at her door with a message: “We’ve identified the person responsible for the death of Eve.”
“She never got to fulfill her dreams,” Irene Wilkowitz said of her sister.
Herbert Rice had three convictions for minor crimes that were ineligible for taking a DNA sample at the time.
“These types of investigations are never easy but the relentless work and partnership helped us bring closure to the Wilkowitz family,” Suffolk Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison said.
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