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Man indicted for 1985 rape, murder was charged with attempted rape 2 months before the Christmas Eve crime

Despite a prior rape arrest, police say the man now charged in the cold case was never interviewed. Instead, suspicion fell on the victim’s boyfriend.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A man indicted for the first-degree murder and rape of 17-year-old Leslie McCray on Christmas Eve 1985 was arrested two months earlier on felony sex charges.

Court records show that David Nelson Austin was arrested in October 1985 for attempted sexual battery on someone with intellectual disabilities. Those charges were later dropped.

Austin’s name was mentioned in police reports from the McCray case, but according to JSO Chief of Investigations TK Waters, he was never considered a suspect or even interviewed.

Instead, suspicion largely fell on McCray’s 21-year-old boyfriend at the time, Edgar McCurry III, who was at the couple’s shared Avondale apartment when McCray was kidnapped. McCurry told police he awoke around 3 a.m. to an intruder with a knife. He said he was bound in neckties before McCray was taken, but eventually freed himself and called police around 6 a.m. McCray’s naked body was found at 9:15 a.m., by the side of Old Middleburg Road with multiple stab wounds to her head, neck and chest.

Police were openly skeptical of McCray’s account. In a story published in the Florida Times-Union on Dec. 27, 1985, JSO Sgt. Charley Hill told a reporter, “we’re still evaluating his story. His story is one part of the case.” The police report noted there was no sign of forced entry or a struggle, and the cobwebs on the back door that McCurry said the intruder used to escape were untouched.

Lt. Jim Suber told a reporter, “It strikes me as curious how the suspect got in and out of that apartment.” He added, “We have no reason to disbelieve his [McCurry’s] story.”

McCurry, the son of a prominent local lawyer and land developer was never charged in the case. But some, including members of McCray’s family, had their suspicions.

Speaking to reporters, after the press conference announcing Austin’s arrest, McCray’s cousin Joey Bray, said her first reaction when she learned Austin was the suspect was, “kinda disbelief.” She added, “You don’t understand the layers of 35 years of trying to find out what happened to your loved one.”

McCurry, who will be a key witness at Austin’s trial, declined interview requests through his attorney, Brian Coughlin, who issued this statement.

“Mr. McCurry is pleased that the process is now underway to bring justice to the person responsible for these deplorable acts. He thanks the State Attorney’s Office and police for their recent work, and his thoughts continue to be with the family of Ms. McCray. Mr. McCurry does not plan to comment publicly again until the prosecution has concluded.”

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 September 1988, and one count of criminal sexual conduct in the fourth degree from an incident in June 1990.

Austin is serving currently serving two life sentences in Michigan, but prosecutors are seeking his extradition to Florida, raising questions about whether prosecutors will seek the death penalty. Officials have declined to say if that is their intent.