Nearly eight months after an 84-year-old Mishawaka woman was brutally murdered, the man police believe is responsible has been arrested.
Police say 19-year-old William Karimu was arrested in Sierra Leone on the continent of Africa Tuesday in connection with the death of Lois Hickey.
Hickey was found stabbed and beaten to death in her home on East Donaldson in December.
For months after her death, the Mishawaka neighborhood was home to a lot of hurt.
“I actually spoke out about a month after the murder wondering what’s going on, why aren’t the police doing anything?” said neighbor Christine Enyeart. “Several of the neighbors were kind of enraged to the point it’s been six weeks, it’s been eight weeks, we haven’t heard anything, they’ve forgotten about us.”
But St. Joseph County authorities hadn’t forgotten.
After DNA from a blood sample found at the crime scene turned up no matches in both an Indiana and national database, police took samples from several people – including Karimu – because of a CrimeStoppers tip.
Karimu denied any involvement in the crime, but his swab matched the DNA found at the crime scene.
So on March 2, charges were filed against Karimu in St. Joseph County. The documents were sealed because police believed Karimu was in Africa at the time and would go further into hiding if he knew of the charges.
So, they kept quiet until he was apprehended in Sierra Leone Tuesday.
“I know it was difficult for the Mishawaka police department,” said Deputy Prosecutor Ken Cotter. “They've been asked a number of times by neighbors so what's the status, we're scared, is this person going to break in. The chief knew, but frankly he was literally the only person in the police department who knew we had charged this because of the sealing of the charges.”
When news of the arrest made its way to Hickey’s neighborhood Tuesday, neighbors say it was bittersweet; Karimu lived just two houses down from Hickey.
“It’s a relief we found out what happened to Lois, but at the same time, it’s disappointing to find out who it was,” Enyeart said. “I would have never thought he was capable of it. I even testified one time on his behalf.”
Neighbors say they were all rooting for Karimu, but he was a habitual troublemaker. They say he stole neighborhood kids’ bikes and sometimes got into fights.
“He’s always been a troublemaker, the only one around really,” said neighbor Dolores Richardson. “Everybody surmised it had to be him.”
As neighbors let the news sink in, they say they’ll at least feel safer knowing the suspect has been caught and their beloved neighbor hasn’t been forgotten.
“It’s really quite refreshing to know our police department did have it under control,” Enyeart said. “They did things for the right reason. We now understand why and we’ve got to put our trust and faith in them that they know what they’re doing.”
Karimu will be extradited from Sierra Leone back to the United States to face his charges.
But it’s unclear how long it could be before that happens; the United States doesn’t have a treaty with Sierra Leone and has never had anyone extradited from the country.
The St. Joseph County Prosecutor’s office is working with the State Department and U.S. Marshals’ office to get Karimu back to the states.