A New York ex-con bishop has been arrested and charged with strangling a 19-year-old girl to death nearly 40 years ago.
James Burrus, 63, the former husband of the victim’s cousin, is now facing murder charges in the death of Lorraine Snell.
“My thoughts today are with Lorraine Snell’s mother, Pearl, who has waited for decades to see her daughter’s killer brought to justice. With this indictment, the result of a thorough reinvestigation of the case and the evidence, including a crucial DNA association, we will now seek to hold the defendant accountable,” Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said in a press release.
Snell was discovered strangled to death in the back of a station wagon in the parking lot of a C-Town grocery store on September 26, 1980, prosecutors said.
The station wagon belonged to the owner of the grocery store, where Burrus had once worked.
Authorities said Burrus and Snell were seen together the night before her body was discovered.
Snell had left her house around 10:30 p.m. on September 25, 1980 to go down to the Midwood Terrace catering hall to reserve the space for a party for her boyfriend. She was allegedly seen at the catering hall with Burrus and the two were seen leaving together around 11 p.m.
Burrus told police he did see Snell that night but said he parted ways with her after walking her part of the way back home.
Although he has long been considered a suspect in the killing, Burrus publicly denied any involvement.
“Those cops checked me from head to toe,” he told local station PIX in 2014.
The same night Snell was last seen, Burrus admitted he robbed a taxi stand and was sent to prison.
It was there he said he found God.
"I just got into Christ in the prison,” he told the station at the time, “and now it’s just my life.”
After his release from prison, Burrus became the bishop of By Divine Purpose Christian Center, a small church held in a converted garage, according to The New York Daily News.
Burrus was linked the crime through DNA from scrapings that had been taken underneath Snell’s fingernails, prosecutors said.
Snell’s mother, Pearl, had waited nearly four decades for an arrest to be made in the case and was at the Brooklyn Supreme Court courtroom Thursday when Burrus was arraigned.
“Forty years is a long time. But everything worked out beautiful. Never gave up,” she said, according to The Daily News.
Even with the arrest, Pearl remains haunted by the loss.
“It will always be hard. Always,” she said. “I’m a mother. I bear the pain…I will never forget. Never forget. It’s justice for her but not a closure for me.”
A spokesperson for the district attorney’s office told Oxygen.com that Burrus is scheduled to appear in court again on March 25.
Crime Time is your destination for true crime stories from around the world, breaking crime news, and information about Oxygen's original true crime shows and documentaries. Sign up for our Crime Time Newsletter and subscribe to our true crime podcast Martinis & Murder for all the best true crime content.