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Man indicted for 1985 murder and rape has been extradited to Jacksonville to stand trial

David Nelson Austin was indicted in the once-cold case in August 2021. He was serving two life sentences in Michigan, but he is now in custody in Jacksonville.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A man indicted for the first-degree murder and rape of 17-year-old Leslie McCray on Christmas Eve 1985 has been brought back to Jacksonville to stand trial, 36 years later.

David Nelson Austin moved to Michigan sometime after McCray’s murder and was subsequently charged with three felony sex crimes, including two counts of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree from an incident in Sept. 1988, and one count of criminal sexual conduct in the fourth degree from an incident in June 1990.

He was serving two life sentences in Michigan when his DNA was matched to DNA from the scene of McCray's murder, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office. 

"Members of both the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and the State Attorney's Office, along with other local officials, fought for almost a year to get the suspect extradited to face the charges against him for this heinous crime," JSO Public Information Officer Christian Hancock wrote in a press release.

The death penalty is not legal in Michigan. His extradition to Florida raises suspicion over whether prosecutors may be seeking the death penalty.

Austin has a long prior record in Duval County, including arrests for burglaries, possession of marijuana, fighting and disrupting the public. 

His most notable Florida arrest was in October 1985 where he was arrested for attempted sexual battery on someone with intellectual disabilities -- two months before he would allegedly kill Leslie McCray.

Austin will be in court on Sept. 21.

What happened to Leslie McCray? 

McCray's killer entered her home, tying up both her and a male victim, now known to be McCray's boyfriend Edgar McCurry III. The intruder kidnapped McCray at knife point and left the man inside the home.

McCurry escaped and called 911 around 6 a.m. By 9:15 a.m., McCray was found dead at 9:15 a.m. by the side of Old Middleburg Road. 

She was naked when she was found and had stabbed wounds to her head, neck and chest.

Her death was soon ruled a homicide.

McCray's case went cold for years.

McCurry was suspected for a time. According to a story published in 1985 in the Florida Times-Union, JSO Sgt. Charley Hill told a reporter they were "still evaluating [McCurry's] story." Police noted there was no sign of a forced entry. But McCurry was never charged in the case. He is expected to be the star witness at Austin's trial.

Austin’s name was mentioned in police reports from the McCray case, but he was never considered a suspect or even interviewed, according to TK Waters, who was the chief of investigations for JSO and is now interim sheriff.


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