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Ct. Man Arrested Over 16 Years After Teenager Was Found Strangled To Death In Abandoned Building's Stairwell

“We’re so happy that we can bring some closure and justice for the girl’s family,” Waterbury Police Chief Fernando Spagnolo said of Willie Robinson's arrest in the case this weekend.

By Jill Sederstrom
Suspect Arrested In Teen's 2004 Cold Case Murder

More than 16 years after a teenage girl was found strangled to death in an abandoned Connecticut apartment building, Waterbury Police arrested a suspect in the case last week.  

Police announced the Friday arrest of 52-year-old Willie Robinson in the death of 16-year-old Jessica Rose Keyworth in a statement obtained by Oxygen.com.

“Detectives of the Major Crime Squad worked relentlessly on this homicide investigation over the years,” police said.

Robinson is now facing a murder charge in the case after detectives identified him as a suspect in the case through what they called “investigative means.” Police Chief Fernando Spagnolo told The Republican American the arrest was made possible by the use of DNA technology and forensic science.

“We’re so happy that we can bring some closure and justice for the girl’s family,” he said. “A lot of it had to do with a lot of perseverance by the detectives involved in the case.”

Keyworth, who had been a student at a Job Corps center in Massachusetts, disappeared in the spring of 2004 after traveling by train to Connecticut to visit friends and family on May 30 of that year. She had been planning to meet with a classmate and then return to school, but the teenager’s body was discovered in the stairwell of the multi-unit residential building about a mile-and-a-half from the train station two days later.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner would later determine that she had died of asphyxia by neck compression. The manner of death was ruled a homicide, police said.

For years, the case would remain cold, leaving her family desperate for answers.

“She was at the peak of her life, she had turned things around. She was going back to school. Why?” Keyworth’s grandmother, Lisa Keyworth, told local station WTIC-TV in 2007.

Police even featured the case in a deck of “cold case” cards given to inmates in the state’s prison system to try to generate new leads on unsolved cases, the local paper reports. The cards generated hundreds of tips that lead to breaks in other cases, but Keyworth’s case remained unsolved.

Authorities have released few details of their investigation, including how Keyworth and Robinson may have crossed paths before her death. They plan to hold a press conference to release more information later today.

Before his arrest, Robinson had worked delivering food. He has past arrests for interfering with an officer, as well as fourth-degree sexual assault and risk of injury, the paper reports. It's not clear whether he was ever convicted in those incidents.

Robinson is being held on a $2 million bond pending court arraignment.

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