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Meekiah Wadley Photo: Quila Wadley
The family of a 1999 murder victim used a live press conference in California to pressure police to publicly identify her killer.
Officials with the Richmond Police Department held a press conference on Thursday to announce that DNA had conclusively connected a man to the murder of 28-year-old Meekiah Wadley, as published by CBS San Francisco. But once there, acting Richmond Police Chief Louie Tirona withheld the suspect’s name, only revealing that he died 11 days after the murder.
Just minutes into the live press conference, Wadley’s niece, Devinee Peterson, raised her hand to get Tirona’s attention.
“Why is it OK that he’s a secret?” Peterson asked. “We know what he did. Why the family can’t know? They look at him as a hero. He’s not a hero. He’s a murderer.”
Tirona responded by asking, “Why give someone fame and notoriety for a murder?”
Attendees at the press conference came to the family’s defense, demanding that authorities give Wadley’s family the closure they sought — which they eventually did.
As officials were seen conversing in the background, Tirona announced that Wadley’s killer was 35-year-old Jerry Lee Henderson.
According to the since-released statement from police, officers responded to reports of screaming at a Carlson Boulevard residence on Jan. 9, 1999, at around 7:30 a.m. A neighbor had gone to investigate and knocked on the door but retreated when the screaming continued.
Police said they made entry into the home minutes after arriving, and found Meekiah Wadley dead on her bedroom floor, still warm to the touch. Her hands were bound with shoelaces, and a buck knife was discovered under her body.
It was later determined that she died due to asphyxia by smothering.
Meekiah’s sister, Quila Wadley, was at the press conference and later spoke to Oxygen.com about her sister.
She explained that she’d hoped to iron out some details about the case with law enforcement before the press release, which she said she’d thought was going to name Henderson.
“But when we got to the news conference, they didn’t do none of that,” Quila Wadley explained. “The story changed. It was just humiliating. It was hurtful.”