Man arrested in 1983 killing

Incident happened in Pelham
March 21, 2008 3:26:07 PM PDT
A career criminal was charged with the murder and sexual assault of a Pelham resident that has stumped detectives for 25 years. Forty-three-year-old Kenny West, of Hudson, was arrested Thursday night near his home after his DNA was matched to evidence from the crime scene, said Pelham Detective Rick Deer. West was arraigned Friday on a second-degree murder charge.

He is charged in the unsolved murder of Josephine O'Keefe, a mother of four, who was strangled in her Lincoln Avenue apartment.

West, who worked in a nearby business, is accused of sexually assaulting and strangling O'Keefe sometime during the weekend of July 15, 1983.

Her body was found in her apartment by her daughter-in-law on July 18.

But detectives got their break when their suspect was recently released from jail after serving an extended sentence for another murder in Westchester.

"It's just nice to know I can finally put these books away," said Deer, who has worked the case since 2001. "It's just nice to know that everything's been solved and everyone can relax a little."

Neither West, whose hands were shackled to his waist, nor his attorney, Allan Focarile, would comment after the arraignment. No plea was entered and a grand jury is expected to take up the case on Monday.

Deer said West was homeless at the time and was working nearby.

"It took several years to get his DNA, and once we got that, we got our match," Deer said.

The victim's daughter, Sue Huppelsberg, said after the arraignment, "It's a good day. It was very tense but a happy day again. It's been a long 25 years." Her brother, Richard O'Keefe, said, "We're just glad that it's coming to a head."