(NEW YORK POST) – Police on Thursday collared the prime suspect in the cold-case murder of 19-year-old Lorraine Snell, who was found strangled to death in the back of a station wagon in Brooklyn in 1980.
James Burrus, 63, of Staten Island, was hauled in handcuffs before a judge in Brooklyn Supreme Court — and in the presence of several of Snell’s family members — where he pleaded not guilty to a second-degree murder charge in connection with Snell’s death. He is being held without bail.
If Burrus — who was married to Snell’s cousin — is convicted on the charge, he could be sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
Authorities were able to link Burrus to Snell’s death via DNA evidence found underneath one of the victim’s fingernails, according to the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office.
The last time anyone saw her alive was Sept. 25, 1980, according to the DA. She went to a party for her boyfriend at an East Flatbush catering hall and was seen leaving the venue with Burrus around 11 p.m. that night.
The next day, Snell’s body was found in a station wagon parked in a C-Town supermarket at 1895 Nostrand Ave.
Burrus had previously worked at the store and the car belonged to his old boss. He eventually admitted to robbing a cab stand on the night of Snell’s murder and served prison time, according to PIX11, which interviewed Burrus about the case in 2014.
After his release, Burrus reinvented himself as a street preacher. He held services in a Staten Island garage where he also lives — and where cops arrested him on Thursday.
Pearl Snell-Holder, 81, Snell’s mother, told reporters after Burrus’ arraignment that she always had a feeling that the born-again convict was behind her daughter’s murder.
“From the day she went missing, I knew it was him,” Snell-Holder said. “I never trusted him.”
“It’s justice for her, but it’s not closure for me,” she added.
Burrus is due back in court on March 25.
Burrus’ attorney, Debbie Silberman of Brooklyn Defender Services, declined to comment.