Richmond police crack 1999 murder of Meekiah Wadley with familial DNA …

RICHMOND, Calif. — Investigators solved the 1999 murder of a 28-year-old woman by the use of California’s familial DNA search program, authorities announced Thursday at a news conference punctuated by pushback from the woman’s family.

Richmond police said Jerry Lee Henderson killed Meekiah Wadley at her home in January 1999, but could not bring him to trial because he died of a suspected drug overdose 11 days after her death.

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“I know it’s been a long 22 years since this heinous crime was committed, and justice doesn’t always come swiftly,” said Diana Becton, Contra Costa County’s district attorney, who was joined at Thursday’s news conference by state Attorney General Rob Bonta and members of Wadley’s grieving family.

DNA collected at the crime never yielded a direct hit in DNA criminal databases. But in October 2020, investigators asked the state to conduct a familial search.

Bonta declined to specify the individual whose DNA led to Henderson, but said investigators worked to eliminate other possibilities. That search resulted in a hit, meaning that the DNA from the crime scene equaled with a parent, sibling or child whose profile was already in the criminal database.

Acting Richmond Police Chief Louie Tirona initially did not want to name Henderson. But he relented under pushback from Wadley’s family, who said the killer’s family nevertheless considered him a good person.

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Quila Wadley said Thursday that Henderson and her sister were acquaintances by a mutual friend whose home they both stayed over at times. When the friend stopped allowing Henderson to stay over, Henderson went to Wadley’s home, thinking she would be gone.

But she came home that night and was startled to find him there. They struggled, and she died by asphyxiation, Quila Wadley said.

Wadley’s family said they were grateful that police stuck with the case. Quila Wadley said that she was tired of the violence.

“I don’t know what the solution is, but someone needs to come up with it. Because we’re dying too young,” she said.

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