Irene Wilkowitz urged authorities to find the person who killed her sister, Eve Wilkowitz, in Bay Shore, for four decades. This year, she finally got her answer.
Herbert Rice, who later died of cancer in 1991, kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and strangled Eve to death on March 22, 1980 when she was walking home from the train station late that evening after her workday in Manhattan, Suffolk County police said. Rice lived a few houses away from a corner yard in Bay Shore where Eve’s body was found. In the investigation, Rice never drew suspicion and was not questioned.
“Today’s announcement marks the end of a more than four-decades-long investigation by Suffolk County Police detectives who never gave up on the pursuit of justice for Eve Wilkowitz,” said Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney K. Harrison. “I applaud all of our partners in this effort, especially Irene Wilkowitz, who never lost faith in our investigators’ dedication to solving her sister’s murder and kept her memory alive.”
The Suffolk County Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) began the process of using a new technology, genetic genealogy, in 2020 to find the killer. The method is known for being used to find the serial rapist and murderer known as the Golden State Killer in California in 2018.
Investigators matched the DNA sample from Eve’s body to one of Rice’s sons, and then exhumed Rice’s body to find that his DNA was a match. Investigators identified Rice’s son’s DNA through a gene-testing website and procured a DNA sample from him, which he offered voluntarily.
“We tackled this case as soon as I got into office and figured out a way to legally expedite the exhumation of Ms. Wilkowitz’s suspected killer in order to truly confirm what investigators knew all along,” said Suffolk County District Attorney Raymond A. Tierney. “I hope this brings closure and comfort to her loved ones knowing that we never truly stopped looking for the person responsible for cutting her young life short.”
Tierney and Harrison held a news conference Wednesday in Riverhead announcing the break in the homicide case and discussing the new technology and legal strategies that the Suffolk County Police Department’s Homicide Squad used. Irene spoke at the conference, as well.
Eve was a 20-year-old publishing company secretary at the time of her murder. Irene, who lives in Rhode Island, continued pushing for 42 years for authorities to crack the case of her sister’s murder, and gave media interviews so Long Islanders would not forget about her.