NYPD detectives embraced in Cambria Heights, after ‘cold case’ murder of 14-year-old girl solved

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CAMBRIA HEIGHTS, Queens -- Shirda Matthews stood praying in a light rain on her front lawn this week -- on the November 9th anniversary of her daughter Sabrina's murder.

The 14-year-old was slashed in the throat in her second floor bedroom, eight years ago this week.

Joining Matthews on the lawn were family and friends and two investigators from the NYPD's Cold Case Squad, including Detective John Roberts.

This past week, Roberts came to Shirda Matthews' house in Cambria Heights and told the Jamaican immigrant that he'd found her daughter's killer.

"I scream out in the air, and I said, 'Thank you, Jesus!' Matthews told PIX11. "Oh, God, I cry and cry and I said, 'Detective, Is this for real?' And I said, 'Can I hug you, sir?'

Matthews did hug Detective Roberts and Sergeant Phil Panzarella from the Cold Case Squad Wednesday night, as Matthews' relatives and supporters broke into applause.

On Monday, Detective Roberts brought the suspect, Rashon Venable, 24, from Albrightsville, Pennsylvania to Queens.

Venable's own DNA, submitted to a national database after Venable was convicted of sexually assaulting another 14-year-old in Pennsylvania, tied Venable to Sabrina's murder.

"It's positive news, as far as the perpetrator who killed Sabrina being apprehended," Detective Roberts said, "but nothing will ever bring her back."

Sergeant Panzarella said, "This was very gratifying for the family, to get closure after all these years. It's the first step in a long process for them."

Rashon Venable was 16 years old and living in Queens Village -- the community adjacent to Cambria Heights -- when Sabrina was murdered on Nov. 9, 2008. Sabrina's mother said the family didn't know him.

Her last memory of Sabrina was the girl watching TV with Shirda's husband -- Sabrina's father -- on Saturday night, Nov. 8, 2008.

Early Sunday morning, Shirda Matthews was getting ready for work when she noticed spots on the kitchen floor. She thought it was mud. It later turned out to be imprints from bloody socks.

Less than a year after Sabrina's murder, Rashon Venable was 17 years old and living in Pennsylvania, when police accused him of raping a 14-year-old girl there. Venable cut a deal to get less jail time.

When he submitted a DNA sample in Pennsylvania -- as a registered sex offender -- there was a match on the national database known as CODIS that ties him to Sabrina's crime scene evidence.

"I don't look at the picture." Shirda Matthews said of Venable's current photo. "I want to see him in court."

Sabrina's father -- who is now separated from her mom -- found his daughter's body in the second floor bedroom on Sunday, Nov. 9, 2008. When Shirda Matthews was called home from work that day, her cries could be heard piercing the night. Her daughter had just started freshman year at Martin Van Buren High School in 2008--and she had taught her mother how to use a computer.

"Although they caught the guy, I wish she would be here," Shirda Matthews cried Wednesday night. "Sometimes I'm opening the door, thinking Sabrina will be here in the house."

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