Arrest in case of missing John Jay student

Kendrick Williams charged with murder
January 15, 2008 4:42:21 PM PST
A man who was living in his car was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of killing a woman who disappeared last spring on a trip to Florida to celebrate her sister's birthday, police said Tuesday.Kendrick Williams, 32, was facing second-degree murder and evidence tampering charges in the death of Stepha Henry, who was last seen alive just before Memorial Day last year, authorities said. No body has been found.

The arrest came after a team of detectives, including two from Florida, found Williams asleep in a car near a Brooklyn pier, police said. Authorities believe he had been living in the vehicle.

Police said they had forensic evidence, including blood of the woman found in a black sedan that Williams was driving the night the woman disappeared.

At a news conference, Jim Loftus, the assistant director of investigative services at the Miami-Dade Police Department, said enough blood was found in the sedan to conclude Henry had been killed.

"No one could survive with that loss of blood," he said.

Of the missing body, Loftus said, "We have the hopes of recovering it."

A handcuffed Williams put his head down and refused to speak while being led by officers out of a police station on Tuesday.

At a Manhattan Criminal Court appearance, Williams refused to waive extradition to Florida, and Judge Abraham Clott scheduled a Feb. 15 hearing to determine whether he will have to return there to face the charges related to Henry's death.

Defense attorney Lawrence Siry had no comment.

Henry, who would have turned 23 in September, and her 16-year-old sister, Shola Henry, flew to Florida to celebrate Shola's birthday. They stayed with relatives, who said they last saw Stepha Henry on May 29 getting into a black sedan driven by a man.

Florida authorities said Williams and Henry were introduced by mutual friends at a barbecue in Miramar, Fla., then met later at a nightclub in Sunrise, Fla. It was unclear where Williams was living at the time.

That night, Henry had talked to her mother by phone, telling her she was getting ready to go to a nightclub. She was seen in a promotional video taped at the club that night.

Miami-Dade County police identified Williams as the driver of the sedan. During the investigation, Williams told detectives that he had left the club early but that Henry decided to stay.

Detectives impounded the sedan, and analysis revealed evidence that linked Williams to Henry, police said.

"This investigation is far from over," Miami-Dade police spokesman Alvaro Zabaleta said.

Henry's father, Steve Henry, reached by telephone Tuesday afternoon, said he didn't want to talk.

Jeremy Travis, president of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, where Henry graduated with honors, released a statement saying the school was "deeply saddened" by the development. Henry, who was planning to attend law school, also was employed by the college when she disappeared.

"We extend our most sincere and profound sympathy to Mr. and Mrs. Henry, her sister Shola and their entire family," the statement said. "We hope that they continue to find the strength they need to get through these difficult times."

Travis said Henry "embodied the values we hope to impart to all of our students: a thirst for knowledge, a commitment to excellence and a desire to ensure fairness in the pursuit of justice."

"She was full of hope and promise," he said. "We mourn the fact that she was unable to fulfill her dreams."