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Suspect indicted for murder in 15-year-old cold case

Tom Magnarelli
Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick explains the murder indictment. The victim's family stands next to him.

A 15-year-old open investigation of a homicide in the city of Syracuse has finally resulted in a murder indictment. New evidence is being tied to the suspect police have been after for years.

On April 23, 2000, Waliek Hammer was shot to death at a burger joint on South Salina Street in Syracuse.  Witnesses were uncooperative when police arrived and no one was ever charged for the murder.

But investigators kept their eye on one suspect, Derrick Wilson, who has been in and out of prison on drug charges in the years since. New ballistic evidence was obtained this past January, and Wilson is now under indictment for murder in the second degree which can carry a sentence of life imprisonment. When the victim's brother, Ronnie Johnson, received the new he said it was a relief.

“It was a blessing, it was great, it was a great feeling," Wilson said. "That pressure was off of you, knowing that whoever it was, that he was caught, that he wasn’t walking amongst us, shaking our hands.”

Wilson is currently in custody on federal drug charges at the Albany Correctional Facility. Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick said Hammer was gunned down in cold blood, he was unarmed and defenseless at the time, and his death resulted from a trivial argument with the suspect.

"Dogged detective work is what solved this case," Fitzpatrick said. "With the evidence that Detectives Nolan and Kittell have developed, we'll be able to put the murder weapon in Derrick Wilson's hand."

Fitzpatrick said he expects there will be other charges in this case and the investigation is ongoing.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.