A few weeks after Alene Perkins' 23-year-old daughter was brutally murdered in Yonkers in September 1993, a young woman approached her and said she knew who the killer was and would tell her later.
"I never saw her again," Perkins said. "But I kept the faith. I knew that one day I would find out what happened."
The young woman -- Nella West -- was killed a month later in Riverdale in the Bronx. Police said alleged serial killer Lucius Crawford confessed this week to killing Perkins' daughter Learonda Shealy, West and 42-year-old Tanya Simmons, who was found stabbed nine times in the chest Tuesday in Crawford's Mount Vernon apartment.
"I was in shock," Perkins said. "I had seen [Crawford] around Yonkers but had no idea that's who it was."
Crawford, 60, faces murder charges in the deaths of the three women. Authorities are conducting a nationwide search of cold cases to determine whether Crawford has killed other women.
Thursday afternoon, Crawford appeared before a judge in Mount Vernon for a preliminary hearing in jeans and a T-shirt, flanked by corrections officers. His court-appointed attorney, Vincent DiMarte, asked the judge to recuse him for a conflict of interest stemming from one of the 1993 slayings, and attorney Angelo MacDonald was appointed to replace him.
MacDonald did not immediately return calls from Newsday seeking comment.
Crawford's arrest has prompted investigators around the region to dust off cold-case homicide files in the hope of finding a match. Mount Vernon Police Chief John Roland said the city is sending information to other states where Crawford may have resided.
"The investigation could expand well beyond our jurisdiction and outside the tristate area," Roland told News12.
DETECTIVES LOOKING FOR LINKS
White Plains Public Safety Commissioner David Chong said the city jailed Crawford for six months on a misdemeanor charge about 20 years ago and investigators now are sifting through old cases looking for correlations, such as incidents involving stabbings and women.
"We have nothing that matches at this point ... The detectives are still researching," he said. "You just keep going back year after year."
Roland said Mount Vernon police have uncovered reports by other women of assaults allegedly committed by Crawford after they refused his advances.
New York State Police, meanwhile, are expected to contact Mount Vernon authorities about an unsolved murder in the Town of Greenburgh, though investigators believe the slaying may have occurred during the 28 years when Crawford was imprisoned, 14 years for the 1994 attempted murder of a woman in Westchester County and 14 years in South Carolina for a 1977 stabbing spree in which he knifed four women in five days.
Investigators returned Thursday to Crawford's basement apartment to search for further evidence.
If convicted, Crawford would join a list of other serial murderers who preyed on women with links to the Hudson Valley, including Rodney Alcala, known as the "Dating Game Killer," and Nathaniel White, who said he was inspired to kill by a "RoboCop" movie.
White stabbed six women in Orange County in the early 1990s and Alacala, who won the bachelorette in an appearance on "The Dating Game," was indicted in 2011 for the death of an aspiring 23-year-old orchestra conductor whose remains were found on the Rockefeller Estate in Westchester. Alcala sits on death row in California for killing five other women. White is serving a sentence of 150 years to life.
New York City Police Department detectives, who went to Crawford's apartment Tuesday because of DNA evidence linking him to West's 1993 slaying, discovered Simmons' body.
Mount Vernon police, who arrived at the apartment at nearly the same time, arrested Crawford soon afterward near a Target store.
Crawford's next court appearance is a felony hearing Monday in Mount Vernon City Court in which prosecutors lay out evidence against him. Court proceedings in the Yonkers and Bronx slayings are believed to be days away.
Perkins will be at Monday's hearing but doesn't know what she will say to Crawford, if given the opportunity.
"I forgive him, because I have to get on with my life," she said. "But I have no idea what I would say."
With News 12