On June 7, 1991, Leah Gibson was strangled to death in her Bronx apartment and the mystery of who killed her went unsolved for more than a quarter century. However, dedicated detective work by NYPD officers and collaboration with other agencies resulted in this “cold case” being closed with a suspect being arrested last week.
Detective Steven Berger, a 31-year veteran of the NYPD and assigned to the Detective Bureau’s Cold Case Squad, began working on the case in 2004 and relentlessly trying to solve it.
“This young, 23-year-old woman was murdered many years ago and with it being unsolved, it was creating further anguish for her mother, as well as her family and friends.
I promised her mother I would not retire until I made arrest in the murder of her daughter,” said Detective Berger.
The NYPD Cold Case Squad received a grant in 2004 to review previous homicide cases across the city where DNA evidence was available for review using a new method that could help with previously unsolved cases. Detective Berger knew the case could benefit from the review. The review, which is conducted by the Office of Chief Medical Examiner (OCME), resulted in a suspect being identified.
Detective Berger along with other Cold Case members including Detective Pedro Toledo, were determined to solve the case and re-conducted numerous interviews with family members and witnesses. This, along with collaborating with the OCME and the Bronx District Attorney’s Office, eventually proved to be successful. After being interviewed multiple times since 2008, the suspect in the case made incriminating and contradictory statements during the last interview.
Based on all of the evidence that was compiled, the suspect was arrested by Detective Berger and other Cold Case detectives on Tuesday, May 16, 2017.
“I hope this provides some closure and eases the grief for her mother. It was a team effort that helped the arrest become possible.
People might think cases like this have become forgotten and abandoned. I hope this lets people know we haven’t forgotten them and we don’t give up,” said Detective Berger.