HUNTINGTON STATION, N.Y. -- When Fernando Romualdo went to state prison last November — convicted of raping an underage girl — he was required to give a DNA sample to be entered into a state database.
That sample ended up solving the 2013 murder of a 23-year-old woman in Huntington Station, Long Island, according to Suffolk County police.
The victim was Sarah Strobel. Her partially-clothed body was found in the Froelich Farms Nature Preserve on October 3, 2013.
She would be one of four people murdered in Huntington Station in a one-year period.
The community started demanding answers.
“This was a high priority in the Suffolk County Police Department,” Commissioner Timothy Sini told PIX11 News, during an interview this week.
“We knew this was a real wound for the Huntington community. This was one of several murders that wasn’t solved.”
The 28-year-old Romualdo was recently removed from Mohawk Correctional Facility upstate to be arraigned in Suffolk County on Strobel’s murder.
The Commissioner remarked to PIX11 “We’ve received many tips relating to Sarah Strobel’s homicide.”
Strobel, a graduate of Walt Whitman High School, was a sweet-faced young woman who got caught up in the heroin epidemic that’s swept many parts of Long Island, along with the rest of the country.
A former classmate spoke to PIX11 by phone Thursday, telling us things were so bad, he left the area.
“Things were really bad in Huntington,” the classmate said. “It was really hard for kids there. Gangs were getting into Whitman.”
The former classmate added that drug activity was right out in the open on some streets.
“You can see it plain as day. You see people walking into drug houses and come out with a little black bag.”
When PIX11 met Strobel’s best friend back in January 2016 — when we profiled the still-unsolved case — she told us Sarah had talked about getting into escort work to make money.
“She had mentioned something about being an escort and how she could make a lot of money in a short amount of time,” the friend recalled. “It kind of really surprised me, because that was not the person I knew. She said something about getting
2 or 300 dollars an hour.”
As a child, Strobel — the only daughter of a teen mother — had gone on missionary trips with her church, but later, her life spiraled out of control and she didn’t have a stable living situation.
She lost touch with many in her community.
Her best friend remembered the last time she saw Strobel by the train station in Huntington.
“It kills me to this day, because I saw her walking and I wanted to say ‘Get in the car, come with me,’ and I didn’t. Because she’s not the person who I was friends with . That’s not the person she was anymore. And I regret that moment, because I know two weeks later, they found her. I don’t know if I could have done anything.”