Staten Island Man Indicted for 1980 Cold Case Murder of Lorraine Snell

Thursday, March 12, 2020


Staten Island Man Indicted for 1980 Cold Case
Murder of Lorraine Snell

Defendant Allegedly Strangled Woman,
Her Body Was Found in Vehicle Parked in Rear of Flatbush Supermarket

Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, together with New York City Police Commissioner Dermot Shea, today announced that, following a lengthy and thorough reinvestigation of the 1980 strangulation death of 19-year-old Lorraine Snell, a 63-year-old Staten Island man who was married to her cousin at the time of the crime has been indicted for the murder.

District Attorney Gonzalez said, “My thoughts today are with Lorraine Snell’s mother, Pearl, who has waited for decades to see her daughter’s killer brought to justice. With this indictment, the result of a thorough reinvestigation of the case and the evidence, including a crucial DNA association, we will now seek to hold the defendant accountable. I commend the NYPD and my Cold Case Unit for the meticulous work they did to put this case together.”

Police Commissioner Shea said, “These charges prove that the best investigators in the world do not ever forget victims, and they do not ever forget the justice that is owed to those victims’ families. I commend the Cold Case detectives whose dedication resulted in this arrest and our colleagues at the Kings County District Attorney’s Office.”

The District Attorney identified the defendant as James Burrus, 63, of Staten Island. He was arraigned today before Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun on an indictment in which he is charged with one count of second-degree murder. He was ordered held without bail and to return to court on March 25, 2020. The defendant faces up to 25 years to life in prison if convicted.

The District Attorney said that, according to the investigation, on September 25, 1980, at approximately 10:30 p.m., Lorraine Snell left her home in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, where she lived with her mother, grandmother and three siblings. She went to the Midwood Terrace catering hall located on Flatbush Avenue to reserve the space for a party for her boyfriend. She was allegedly seen in the company of the defendant at the Midwood Terrace, according to the investigation, and the two left together at approximately 11 p.m.

On September 26, 1980, Lorraine Snell was discovered on the back floor of a station wagon that was parked in the rear of a C-Town grocery store located at 1895 Nostrand Avenue in East Flatbush. The cause of death was strangulation. The station wagon belonged to the owner of the C-Town supermarket, where the defendant was once employed.

The defendant allegedly admitted to police that he was with Snell at the Midwood Terrace and told police he walked her part of the way home. As a result of the reinvestigation, the defendant’s DNA was allegedly positively associated to foreign DNA found under the victim’s fingernail.

The case was investigated by Detective William Simon of the NYPD’s Cold Case Squad and Detective Michael Gaynor, of the Brooklyn South Homicide Squad, under the supervision of Lieutenant Dennis Klein.

Forensic Specialist Susan Horan, of the District Attorney’s Forensic Science Unit, assisted in the investigation.

The case is being prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Lauren Silver, of the District Attorney’s Homicide Bureau and Assistant District Attorney Andrea Orlando, Deputy Chief of the District Attorney’s Blue Zone Trial Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorney Timothy Gough, Chief of the District Attorney’s Homicide Bureau and Assistant District Attorney Rachel Singer, Chief of the District Attorney’s Forensic Science and Cold Case Unit.


An indictment is an accusatory instrument and not proof of a defendant’s guilt