Leonard Jackson, 53, is arraigned in Superior Court in Bridgeport, Conn. on Thursday. Bail was set at $1 million.
Leonard Jackson, 53, is arraigned in Superior Court in Bridgeport, Conn. on Thursday. Bail was set at $1 million. (Associated Press)
Friday August 17, 2012

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- Nearly 32 years after Estella "Stella" Brantley was found strangled in Bridgeport's Seaside Park, police announced Thursday they finally have evidence to charge the person they believe killed her.

New DNA tests led authorities to charge Leonard Jackson, a 53-year-old prison inmate serving time on a drug conviction, with murder in Brantley's death, said Bridgeport police spokesman Detective Keith Bryant.

Authorities served Jackson with an arrest warrant at Garner Correctional Institution in Newtown on Thursday morning. He was arraigned in Bridgeport Superior Court, where bail was set at $1 million, Bryant said.

Brantley's partially clothed body was found in the park along Long Island Sound in the early morning hours of Oct. 30, 1980. She was 30.

Police have said she was one of six prostitutes killed in the city between June 1977 and December 1984. But Bryant said Jackson is not a suspect in the other homicides.

Police said they developed a DNA profile on a possible suspect in Brantley's killing with the help of the FBI crime lab in Quantico, Va., based on an evidence sample collected from the body. Bryant said a DNA sample was later obtained from Jackson based on information gathered by cold case Detective Heitor Teixeira from an undisclosed source.

Recent testing showed Jackson's DNA matched the sample taken from Brantley's body, Bryant said.

Brantley's daughter, Gwen dolyn Brantley, went to Jackson's arraignment Thurs day and said her family still has a lot of questions, the Connecticut Post reported.

"This is a different story from what we were told over the years," she said. "We want to be involved in this case. We want people to know she has a family and two kids who loved her very much. We want to see justice brought to the right
person."

Bryant said city police never gave up on the case.

"These cases are never closed," he said. "They are constantly evaluated and, as information is received over time, we constantly go over them."

Jackson was sentenced to five years in prison last year for possession with intent to sell drugs. His criminal record also includes convictions for moving a dead body without a permit, patronizing a prostitute, misdemeanor assault and threatening, according to state court records. Details of those crimes weren't immediately available.