Science solves 1993 murder mystery by identifying pedestrian fatality

New Jersey State Police Forensic Anthropologist Donna Fontana

A previously unidentified man who was struck and killed by a vehicle in Elizabeth nearly a quarter-century ago has been identified via an archived fingerprint match as the person long sought for killing his girlfriend that same week, acting Union County Prosecutor Grace H. Park announced Wednesday.

The breakthrough connection was the product of a joint investigation involving the Elizabeth Police Department, Union County Prosecutor’s Office Homicide Task Force, Union County Medical Examiner’s Office, and New Jersey State Police Forensic Anthropologist Donna Fontana.

Shortly after 8:45 a.m. on October 28, 1993, an adult male was struck and killed by a vehicle in the area of U.S. Routes 1&9 and East Grand Street in Elizabeth. The man did not have any identification on his person at the time of the accident, and despite the efforts of investigators to confirm who he was and contact next of kin, his identity remained unknown.

Two days after that incident, the body of 31-year-old Magalie Francois of Linden was found on the 600 block of Monroe Avenue in Elizabeth. An autopsy revealed that she had suffered numerous fatal stab wounds and blunt trauma to her head, and her death was classified as a homicide.

An investigation by the Elizabeth Police Department resulted in Francois’s boyfriend, then-31-year-old Wilmane Nicolas of Elizabeth, being identified as a suspect in the case.

A warrant for his arrest was issued in January 1994, and he subsequently was placed on the Union County Sheriff’s Office Most Wanted List.

The fingerprints of the accident victim – now identified as Nicolas – were submitted to the New Jersey State Police in 1993 and to the FBI in 2006, but neither submission produced a match with any known person. However, when Fontana recently entered the fingerprints of a series of unidentified bodies to the National Institute of Justice’s National Missing and Unidentified Person System (NamUs) database, it returned a match to Nicolas.

NamUs is a nationally centralized repository and resource center for missing persons and unidentified decedent records. Its free online system can be searched by medical examiners, coroners, law enforcement officials, and members of the general public; for more information, go online to www.namus.gov.

The Prosecutor’s Office would like to thank its investigative partners for their efforts in helping to solve this case.


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