SOUTH BEND—A man accused of murdering an 84-year-old Mishawaka woman during a home invasion in December has been apprehended — 5,000 miles from the scene of the crime.
William Karimu, 19, a native of Sierra Leone, Africa, was arrested by Sierra Leone authorities Tuesday on suspicion of murdering Lois Hickey. Hickey was stabbed numerous times in her home in the 300 block of East Donaldson Street. Her body was found on Dec. 29 after concerned neighbors called police after reporting not seeing her for a number of days.
Karimu, who was reportedly living in Mishawaka at the time, was charged March 2 with murder, burglary, a Class B felony, and felony murder. However, the charges were sealed after investigators believed it was possible Karimu could have fled to Africa. He has family members who live in St. Joseph County. Authorities are currently working to extradite him back to the United States which could take an undetermined amount of time.
“It’s a great sense of relief for a lot of elderly people in that neighborhood,” Mishawaka Police Chief Ken Witkowski said during a news conference Tuesday to announce the arrest. “They were concerned. They can rest assured that guy is locked up.”
St. Joseph County Prosecutor Michael Dvorak said Karimu lived just two houses away from Hickey during the time of the murder.
Crime Stoppers tips led investigators to interview and take DNA samples from a number of people, including Karimu.
Karimu agreed to speak with police and denied any involved in her death, according to the charging documents. He reportedly submitted to a buccal swab in an attempt to compare his DNA to the DNA from blood found in the living room and window pane of Hickey’s home.
Authorities said the DNA profile of the blood from the home matched the DNA profile of Karimu “to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty.”
The window at Hickey’s home was broken by a rock, and officers determined the assailant entered through that window and cut himself while doing so. A forensic scientist examined the blood samples and developed a DNA profile that they determined came from an unknown male.
A motive to the murder is unclear. However, a gold Saturn belonging to Hickey was stolen from her garage and later found on 24th Street near Courtyard Apartments in South Bend. Witnesses said the Saturn had been parked there since the early morning hours of Dec. 27.
Authorities would not say when they interviewed Karimu and when he may have fled for Africa.
Dvorak said no extradition has ever occurred between the United States and Sierra Leone, and the countries do not have a treaty with one another. However, the U.S. Department of Justice is working through Great Britain, which does have a treaty with the west African nation.
Dvorak added he’s confident the extradition will happen.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Indiana, the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Marshal’s Service assisted with filing extradition papers in the case.
Dvorak credited the help from outside agencies as well as his investigators.
Staff writer Tom Moor: