By Walt Hunter
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – When Paulette Smith waved goodbye to her 17-year-old daughter, Anjeanette Maldonado, the morning of September 30,1996, she had no idea she would never see the daughter she loved alive again.
Two days later, Maldonado, attacked on her way to school, was found strangled in an abandoned home in the 1700 block of North Hope Street.
For 16 agonizing years, Smith, her son and daughter, and Anjeanette’s stepfather, Fred Soto, waited and hoped for answers in the search for her murderer.
Then, a few days ago, a detective from the Philadelphia Police Department’s Special Investigations Unit, called the family to tell them the accused killer was caught.
The suspect, 45-year-old Rafael Crespo, was identified through DNA. Detective Jack McDermott and members of the Special Investigations Squad, who had pursued the case from the start, had asked the police lab to reanalyze the DNA using methods not available in 1996.
The DNA identified Crespo, a transient who happened to be passing through Philadelphia, as the accused killer.
Crespo is already behind bars, serving 25 years for rape, in a Florida prison.
Detectives says he is due to be released in 2015 and had they not tracked him down, he might have walked away and never been caught.
Maldonado’s family, who commemorated each of her birthdays, now says with the arrest, she will have peace.
The family says they are grateful for the work of the Special Investigations Unit detectives. They add that Detective McDermott, who plans to retire in the near future, had promised he would make an arrest before he left.
McDermott, they say, kept his promise.