Connecticut man charged in cold case slaying of Jessica Keyworth

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A Connecticut man has been charged with murdering a teen found strangled in a basement stairwell more than 16 years ago, police said.

Willie Robinson, 52, of Waterbury, was arrested Friday in the cold case slaying of Jessica Keyworth, 16, who was found lifeless in June 2004, Waterbury police said Saturday.

Department officials did not specify what led them to Robinson in the teen’s murder, but Waterbury’s top cop said DNA technology and forensic science were part of its probe.

“We’re so happy that we can bring some closure and justice for the girl’s family,” Police Chief Fernando Spagnolo told the Republican-American. “A lot of it had to do with a lot of perseverance by the detectives involved in the case.”

Keyworth, who was a student at a Job Corps center in Massachusetts, was visiting friends and relatives in Connecticut when she was killed, the newspaper reported. She had lived in Stratford and Bridgeport at the time, according to the Connecticut Post.

The teen took a train from Bridgeport and got off in Waterbury on May 30, 2004, police said. She was found dead days later in a stairwell behind a multiunit residential building on Pearl Street and it’s unclear how she got there, the Republican-American reported.

An autopsy revealed Keyworth was strangled. A medical examiner ruled her death to be a homicide, police said.

Robinson was charged in Keyworth’s slaying after being identified as the suspect
“through investigative means,” police said in a statement. He remained in custody Monday on $2 million bond.

Robinson’s attorney said Sunday that his client had not confessed to murdering Keyworth, whom he characterized as non-violent.

“I think he deserves his day in court,” Minnella told the Republican-American. “People shouldn’t come to a conclusion just because there’s an arrest in the case.”

Keyworth had been featured on a deck of “cold case” playing cards sold in state prisons that featured details of unsolved slayings. A $50,000 reward was also put up for information leading to an arrest in the murder, the newspaper reported.

A press conference originally scheduled for Monday about Robinson’s arrest was canceled due to the winter storm. It will now be held Wednesday, Waterbury police said.

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