COLD CASE CRACKED: NYPD makes arrest in 1994 double murder of Harlem mom, daughter

Sarah Roberts, 57, and her daughter Sharon Roberts, 27, were found strangled in their apartment at 550 West 125th St. in Harlem on Feb. 20, 1994
Sarah Roberts, 57, and her daughter Sharon Roberts, 27, were found strangled in their apartment at 550 West 125th St. in Harlem on Feb. 20, 1994. Photo credit Google Street View

NEW YORK (1010 WINS/WCBS 880) -- A 64-year-old man was arrested this week in connection with the double murder of a Harlem mother and her adult daughter nearly three decades ago, the NYPD said Tuesday.

Larry Atkinson, of Harlem, was taken into custody Sunday night and charged with two counts of murder in the 1994 killings.

Atkinson was charged in connection with the deaths of Sarah Roberts, 57, and her daughter, Sharon Roberts, 27.

The mom and daughter were found strangled at their apartment in the Grant Houses on the night of Feb. 20, 1994.

NYPD officers responding to a 911 call at their apartment on W. 125th Street found them unresponsive in a bedroom.

The medical examiner determined that both of them had been strangled with tubing from the daughter’s oxygen machine.

The NYPD cold case squad linked Atkinson to the murders by DNA evidence, 1010 WINS has learned. The evidence included fingernail scrapings and biological evidence found in one of the victims’ hands.

DNA evidence was tested in 1994, but there was no match to anyone.

Joseph Giacalone, a retired NYPD sergeant and now adjunct professor at John Jay College, said there are multiple reasons DNA evidence may have been missed decades ago.

“It’s about when the person is arrested, if they plea cases down. So if this doesn’t fit a certain category, then they don’t take the DNA,” Giacalone said. “So you could see how somebody could go this long.”

DNA technology also wasn’t as sophisticated in 1994 as it is today.

Atkinson has been arrested 18 times over the years and done five prison terms. He was living in an apartment at W. 112th Street and Lenox Avenue when he was arrested.

Atkinson had been dating the home attendant of the mom and daughter during the time of their murders, sources told PIX11. The home attendant is the one who found their bodies; she was not considered a suspect and was cleared by police.

Giacalone said solving a murder so old sends a positive message.

“Police departments are looking across the country on how to build better bridges between the police and the community,” he said. “This is one of them. To show that you don’t forget and that these cases are still important and victims matter.”

Featured Image Photo Credit: Google Street View