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Cold Case Murder of Mother and Daughter Gets Major Break Decades Later

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A 64-year-old man was arrested Monday in connection with the double homicide of an ailing Harlem woman and her developmentally disabled daughter nearly 29 years ago.

New York police said Larry Atkinson was arrested on murder charges in the killing of 57-year-old Sarah Roberts and her 27-year-old daughter Sharon on Feb. 20, 1994, WPIX-TV reported.

The two women had been strangled in a bedroom, according to the report.

Atkinson, an ex-convict, was the boyfriend of Celeste Cornelius, a healthcare aide for Sharon Roberts, The New York Post reported.

The mother had emphysema, WPIX said.

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The Post said some items had been stolen from the apartment, including a videocassette recorder and several hundred dollars in cash.

At the time the crime was reported, Cornelius told police she found the apartment door unlocked and discovered the bodies of the women, according to WPIX. There was no sign of forced entry.

Cornelius was investigated after the murders, but was cleared, the New York Daily News reported.

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Investigators recovered DNA evidence at the scene, including a fingernail scraping from the mother and dried biological evidence from the daughter’s hand, according to the Daily News.

That evidence was reviewed recently by an NYPD cold-case detective, who linked it to Atkinson.


The suspect has three aliases and 28 prior arrests, the Daily News reported, adding that he has served five stints in state prison.

Rather than transporting the suspect to jail or court, Atkinson was taken to Bronx Care Health System, where he is undergoing chemotherapy for cancer.

WPIX said he has been charged with two counts of murder and will be arraigned “as soon as medically possible.”

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Cornelius still lives with Atkinson, and she declared his innocence Monday, according to the Post. “I know he didn’t do it,” she told the Post. “I don’t care about the DNA — none of that mess. He didn’t do it.”

Atkinson also denied any wrongdoing at the time of his arrest, police told the Daily News.

Juliette Wilson, 84, described Cornelius and Atkinson as very nice people.

“Yesterday he brought me packages, clothes for my daughter from Amazon,” Wilson told the Daily News.

“He’s a good person. I’m surprised.”

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Lorri Wickenhauser earned a journalism degree from California State University, Fresno, and has worked at news organizations in California and Arizona.
Lorri Wickenhauser earned a journalism degree from California State University, Fresno, and has worked at news organizations in California and Arizona.




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