When James Witkowski, 42, was sentenced to 18 months in jail last summer for violating the terms of an assault-and-battery conviction - following earlier convictions that included drug distribution - he had to supply a DNA sample.
The sample matched DNA found on the body of Lena Bruce after she was raped and suffocated in her South End apartment on July 12, 1992. Today, the Suffolk County District Attorney's office announced Witkowski faces a charge of first-degree murder for her death.
Bruce, 21, a Philadelphia native, had graduated with honors with a degree in electrical engineering from Tufts University just two months before her death.
At a press conference today, DA Dan Conley said:
Despite an extensive investigation by police and prosecutors in the days and weeks that followed, there were no witnesses and no leads. The case was highlighted in the media and by Lena’s friends and family. Even years after her death, generations of investigators continued to appeal to the public and sift through the evidence for anything that would identify her killer. Despite their best efforts, Lena’s murder went unsolved - until now. ...
As far as anyone can tell, Witkowski was a stranger to Lena Bruce. At the time of her murder, he had only a minor record of larceny-related offenses and there was nothing to link him to the crime. But Boston Police detectives assigned to the case collected and processed the crime scene evidence carefully. They stored that evidence under laboratory conditions for more than two decades. And as a result, we have today what they couldn’t imagine in 1992 - DNA evidence that identifies James Witkowski to the exclusion of any other suspect, recovered from two locations on Lena Bruce's body ...
This break led to a blizzard. Some 58 exhibits went before the grand jury. Investigators travelled to multiple states, interviewing and re-interviewing witnesses. The Crime Lab re-tested evidence - including a wallet found outside Lena Bruce’s building on the night her body was discovered. Inside was one slip of paper with one fingerprint that the BPD Latent Print Unit matched to James Witkowski’s left thumb.
With a job offer from one of the country's premier engineering companies, Lena’s future looked bright. She moved to Boston’s South End, where she was intent not just on doing well for herself, but on doing good for others. Growing up in Philadelphia, she had volunteered with the elderly and with troubled teens. She was extremely active in her community, and even today, young women attend college thanks to a scholarship in Lena’s name through her sorority, the Xi Tau chapter of Delta Sigma Thi. In every way, Lena Bruce was just the kind of person we want in our city. Had she been allowed to grow into a successful woman, there’s no telling what she would have accomplished.
Sadly, Lena’s parents passed away before we could inform them that their daughter’s killer had finally been identified.