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Police arrest inmate in Jacksonville cold case rape, murder on Christmas Eve

An arrest in the 1985 murder of an Avondale 17-year-old comes after police say DNA matched that of a man serving a life sentence for sex crimes.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The family of Leslie McCray has waited decades for an answer about who murdered the Jacksonville teenager on Christmas Eve of 1985. 

Now they may finally have the answer.

A grand jury indictment for first-degree murder was announced Thursday in the cold case murder of the 17-year-old. 

Detectives say a DNA match lead them to David Austin, 59, who is currently serving a life sentence in Michigan for sex crimes.

According to accounts at the time, McCray’s 21-year-old boyfriend told police he was awakened around 3 a.m. Christmas Eve, 1985, to a man kneeling by his bed with a knife. 

The boyfriend told police the man tied him up and took McCray out of their apartment on St. Johns Avenue in Avondale. The boyfriend told police he was able to free himself from the bindings. He called police around 6 a.m. McCray’s body was found a few hours later on Old Middleburg Road, about five miles from the apartment. 

She had been raped and stabbed multiple times in her head, chest and neck.

In a Florida Times-Union article from Dec. 27, 1985, investigators said there were no signs of forced entry or a struggle in the apartment.

McCray’s family told the local victim advocacy organization, Project: Cold Case, that they never gave up the pursuit of justice for the teenager they say had a wonderful sense of humor and was quick to make people laugh.

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Cold Case Unit began reworking the case in 2020 and got a DNA to Austin. 

Austin was convicted in 1991 of two counts of criminal sexual conduct and received a life sentence. It is unclear when he could be extradited back to Duval County to face the new charges.


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