Crawford indicted in '93 Bronx cold case murder

Mount Vernon police crime scene investigators work to Mount Vernon police crime scene investigators work to gather evidence from the basement apartment at 7 Beekman Ave. in Mount Vernon, the residence of murder suspect Lucius Crawford, left. (Dec. 5, 2012) Photo Credit: Xavier Mascarenas

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Accused killer Lucius Crawford was indicted Tuesday on a murder charge in a 19-year-old cold case after DNA evidence linked him to the crime, the Bronx district attorney's office said.

Crawford, 60, was arrested Dec. 4 after cops found the body of his girlfriend, 41-year-old Tanya Simmons, stabbed to death and left on the bed in Crawford's cramped Mount Vernon apartment.

The discovery was made by a pair of NYPD detectives, who were there to question Crawford on a pair of cold cases from 1993 -- the stabbing deaths of 23-year-old Learonda Shealy of Yonkers, and 38-year-old Nella West of Riverdale.

It's the latter murder that was tied to Crawford by a DNA sample taken in October 1993, when West was murdered. At the time, New York State's DNA database did not exist; when detectives revisited the case earlier this year, they retrieved the original evidence from West's murder and searched for a match in the database.

Coroners at the New York City medical examiner's office "developed a full DNA profile of a suspect as a result of advances in DNA technology that was not available when the homicide occurred," a statement from the district attorney reads. "Investigators were able to develop a profile from forensic evidence retrieved from vaginal swabs taken from the deceased."

West was "stabbed multiple times" and her skull was fractured, among other injuries, prosecutors said.

A telephone call Tuesday night to Angelo MacDonald, Crawford's court-appointed attorney, was not immediately returned.

Simmons, who was also stabbed several times, was laid to rest last week in a private ceremony in Mount Vernon. Her relatives, who called her "Beauty," called for justice and said they hope Crawford will be convicted.

"Maybe it will bring the family closure, because everybody is hurting right now," Regine Wajid, Simmons' cousin, said last week.

Crawford was indicted on a single count of second-degree murder in the West slaying. Prosecutors allege Crawford "acted with intent" in West's murder.

A day after Crawford's arrest, Mount Vernon police said the Mount Vernon man confessed to killing Simmons, West and Shealy. MacDonald has disputed those claims by police and said he will challenge the alleged confessions in court.

"I have some doubts about the voluntariness of those statements, that's obviously very important to me," MacDonald said last week.

On Tuesday night, Crawford was transferred back to the custody of authorities in Westchester County, where a grand jury will hear evidence in all three murder cases.

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