Man arrested in '89 Long Island killing

September 30, 2009 4:01:08 PM PDT
As police took 38 year old Joey Bethea to court on Wednesday morning, he kept repeating the word no. It's unclear if he was denying the crime, or simply couldn't believe that he'd been caught after all these years.

It's been two decades since Eyewitness News first covered the case. Janitors at Hempstead High school found the battered body of Dorothy LeConte raped, strangled and dumped face down in a stream.

As the years passed, the case went cold, until this week when a DNA hit led cops to Bethea.

"Every time you walk into a room you leave some type of body cell behind. You're leaving your footprint," Lt. John Azzata said.

Police had DNA from the crime, but didn't know whose. They submitted the sample to a national database back in 2002.

Although state law requires convicts to submit DNA samples, upstate authorities never collected one from Bethea, even though he was convicted of three different crimes in 05, 07 and early 09.

"I can definitely tell you these three crimes generate the individual arrested to submit a DNA sample," Azzata said.

But he never provided one until this past July, when state police embarked on a DNA roundup and swabbed Bethea's cheek.

Two months later, they had their match.

"It just happens. There are a lot of things that happen in the criminal justice system. The system did work. Maybe it took a little time, but it works," police commissioner Lawrence W. Mulvey said.

It sure isn't perfect. In Nassau County alone, 1500 convicts currently "owe" DNA samples that have never been collected.

So the police recently launched this high-tech system allowing officers to search for the offenders, and take the DNA samples themselves in hopes of breaking even more cases that some thought might never be solved.

Bethea pleaded not guilty Wednesday at his arraignment on a murder charge. He was ordered held on $1 million cash bail.

Find us on Facebook® | Follow us on Twitter
More social networking
Contact Long Island Bureau | Most popular stories | Street-level weather
Mobile Alerts | Report Typos | See News? Tell Eyewitness news