New York bishop arrested for 1980 murder of 19-year-old legal secretary

Francis Akhalbey March 16, 2020
James Burrus has been arrested for the 1980 murder of Snell and indicted -- Left Screenshot via

The September 1980 murder of newly engaged 19-year-old legal secretary, Lorraine Snell, was a cold case as investigators couldn’t pin the crime to the suspect. Thanks to improved DNA technology, however, justice has finally been served for Snell and her family after four decades.

According to the New York Daily News, James Burrus was arrested for the murder of Snell on Thursday and indicted. Burrus, 63, who is the bishop of By Divine Purpose Christian Center in Staten Island was Snell’s cousin’s estranged husband at the time of her death.  He was always the key suspect in Snell’s gruesome murder but investigators had difficulties backing it up with evidence.

The breakthrough in the case came about after improved DNA technology successfully matched scrapings that had been extracted from under Snell’s fingernails to Burrus.

Snell met Burrus at the Midwood Terrace catering hall when she went there to make a part payment as part of plans for her engagement party, the New York Daily News reports. Her body was found strangled with a cable in a car in East Flatbush the next day. The car in question belonged to the owner of the supermarket Burrus used to work.

Burrus, who is an ex-convict and served time for a 1977 robbery, however, denied murdering Snell, though he admitted they met on that day.

“We did leave the building together,” he told PIX 11 in 2014. “I walked her, I believe it was, on Clarendon Road. A few blocks from her house, I went one way, and I watched her go up by her block.”

He also told the news platform he robbed a taxi stand that night and was arrested and convicted for that. He was released in 1985.

“My daughter was missing, I knew it was him. And, I said it. I never trusted him. And, I feel you know from day one he was the one,” Snell’s mother told Brooklyn News 12.

Snell family finally found justice after her mother petitioned NYPD cold case detectives in 2015 to reopen the case.

“Forty years is a long time. But everything worked out beautiful. Never gave up,” she said after Burrus’ arraignment at the Brooklyn Supreme Court on Thursday, according to the New York Daily News.

“It will always be hard. Always. I’m a mother. I bear the pain… I will never forget. Never forget. It’s justice for her but not a closure for me.”

Last Edited by:Kent Mensah Updated: March 16, 2020


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