Police Crack 1980 Cold Case Murder Of New York Woman Murdered While Walking Home From Work
“She was a real person,” Irene Wilkowitz says of her sister, Eve, who was killed on her way home from work in 1980.
A persistent family and dogged detective work helped solve the decades-old mystery of who murdered a New York woman then callously dumped her body in a yard near her apartment.
On March 22, 1980, Eve Wilkowitz left her secretarial job at a Manhattan publishing house and took the train to her Bay Shore, Long Island home. As she walked from the station, the 20-year-old woman was attacked.
Days later, her body was found and an autopsy determined she had been raped and strangled.
Police canvassed the area, speaking with neighborhood residents — but it would be nearly half a century before police files showed officers made contact with a woman at a nearby home who said she hadn’t noticed anything unusual at the time. Her son, it turned out, was connected to the homicide.
Although the case grew cold, detectives through the years regularly used DNA evidence recovered from the victim’s body and compared it with criminal databases in hopes of finding a match and identifying the perpetrator.
Irene Wilkowitz said the murder of her sister “who never got a chance to fulfill her dreams” had a huge impact on the course of her own life. “I've lived these last 42 years afraid all the time that I was going to be killed next,” CBS News reported.
Still, Irene wanted justice for her older sibling, doing her best to make sure detectives were working the case despite the passing time. She regularly emailed investigators and pushed them to use genetic genealogy after her 25-year-old son Evan — named in honor of his late aunt — told her about the fledgling DNA technology that uses consumer DNA databases and family trees to trace and narrow down possible suspects in a case.
In December 2021, it was Suffolk County detectives’ turn to reach out and contact Irene Wilkowitz. They told her, thanks to genetic genealogy, they knew who killed her sister.
“These are the most exciting kinds of visits we can do, to give a family some sort of answer,” Suffolk County Police Detective Jeffrey Bottari said at a March press conference, according to NBC News. “Especially for her. We had decades of detectives who worked on this.”
According to authorities, Herbert Rice, a man living with his mother several doors down from where Eve Wilkowitz’s body was discovered, was responsible for what was likely a crime of opportunity.
Rice, whose wife had kicked him out of their home shortly before the murder, died from cancer in 1991, detectives said.
“For 42 years, this was all I wanted — I just wanted it to be over,” Irene Wilkowitz said at the press conference. “My goal was to be a mom, and beyond that, I didn’t allow myself to dream any other dream because I was afraid someone would come along and murder me. So I can’t process that it’s solved now, and that I’m still here.”
Now, Irene Wilkowitz can focus on what truly matters most to her: honoring her older sibling’s memory.
“She was a real person,” she said. “She was outgoing, had lots of friends, loved horses, loved music, liked to read and write and draw. And she liked to be a big sister to me. I want people to know that.”