In 1980, Eve Wilkowitz was kidnapped, held captive, assaulted, and murdered. Genetic genealogy solved her murder.
Shortly before Eve was taken, she told her roommate that she thought someone was following her when she would walk home from the train in the evenings from her commute into New York City.
Eve Wilkowitz was a Long Island native; born and raised in Oakdale, New York. A friend describes Eve as having “a heart as big as her dreams.” She was vibrant, funny, full of life, and had a bright future ahead of her. In 1977, Eve’s mother passed away from cancer and it wasn’t long before Eve moved out of her family home to live in Bay Shore, Long Island with her friend, Robert Grogan.
In 1980, Grogan recalls that Eve had expressed uneasiness about men who would follow her from the train. The two lived together as roommates for two years. On one occasion, a man kept approaching Eve to ask her out, and she declined. Another time, Eve was walking home around 2 am and a man had followed her home the entire 10-minute walk to her apartment. Eve worked in Manhattan as a secretary for a popular publishing house, and frequently commuted by train. Six weeks earlier, Eve started dating a young writer, named Jack Dempsey.
What we know about the days leading up to Eve’s murder
March 21, 1980: That night, Eve had dinner and saw a movie with Jack in the city. After their date, they went back to Jack’s apartment and Eve fell asleep but asked Jack to wake her so she could make her 12:35 am train back to Long Island.
March 22, 1980: Jack walks with Eve to Penn Station. He offered to take the train with her, but Eve told him she would be fine. Instead, he watches her board the Long Island Rail Road train to Oakdale. Eve’s train to Oakdale typically was an hour and forty-five minutes each way.
By 7 am, that morning, Grogan noticed that Eve had not returned home yet. That evening, Grogan reported Eve missing to local police. Family and friends would call around to local hospitals to see if anyone was admitted fitting Eve’s description, but no one matched Eve’s description.
On March 25, 1980, around 8 am, a woman discovers Eve’s body on her neighbor’s lawn. Eve was found wearing a pair of blue jeans and a blouse. There was evidence of rope marks on her wrists suggesting that she was bound. It is speculated that Eve may have been held captive before she was sexually assaulted and strangled to death. Eve’s shoes and socks were never recovered.
There were many questions surrounding Eve’s case: Did Eve know or recognize her attacker? Could the man who was following her home be responsible for her murder? Was she targeted? Was Eve being stalked?
Where the case stands today
In 1981, the FBI generated an ‘abstract profile’ of Eve’s killer. It is believed that the individual who killed Eve: is likely a white male between the ages of 19 and 30 years old. This individual likely drives a well-kept-late-model performance car and lives in her local neighborhood.
In 2020, the FBI teamed up with Suffolk County in hopes that genetic genealogy can break the case. This new technology allows law enforcement to run DNA profiles of unknown suspects through genealogical databases such as GEDmatch in hopes of finding potential family members related to the person of interest—similar to the technology that identified the Golden State Killer.
In 2022, Eve's case was finally resolved using genetic genealogy. Police identified Herbert Rice of Long Island as the killer of Eve Wilkowitz. He was 29 years old when he murdered Eve and was living with his mother near the area where Eve's body was found. A break in the case came when police learned that Rice's son was on a public genealogical website. The son gave a DNA sample to police, Rice's body was exhumed and a genetic analysis of his DNA was matched to semen found on Eve's body.
Read Jack Dempsey's beautiful tribute to Eve here.