Suspect arrested in 2012 homicide case after DNA match from cigarette butt

In a significant breakthrough in a cold case dating back to 2012, authorities have arrested 39-year-old Vallis L. Slaughter in connection with the homicide of 34-year-old Julio A. Torres. The arrest comes after years of meticulous investigation and forensic analysis linking Slaughter to the crime scene.

The incident occurred on March 24, 2012, at 3:36 AM, when Torres was fatally shot while seated inside his vehicle in the parking lot of the West Reading Diner. Despite the initial arrest and conviction of Jomaine Case, investigators were unable to identify the individual responsible for pulling the trigger.

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The investigation showed that just prior to this shooting, Case and the unknown shooter became involved in a verbal dispute with the victim in the parking lot of the diner. Shortly thereafter, the victim was shot and killed. There was no information uncovered that would indicate that Torres knew his assailants.

Berks County District Attorney’s Office.

During the investigation, surveillance footage was reviewed from the diner and detectives observed that both Jomaine Case and the unidentified shooter were holding Styrofoam cups just prior to the shooting. The cups were collected from the crime scene by the Berks County Forensic Services Unit, including a bitten-off piece from one of the cups.

The cups and bitten piece were sent to the Pennsylvania State Police Forensic Crime Laboratory for DNA analysis. An unknown male’s DNA profile was developed from the bitten-off piece of the Styrofoam cup; this DNA did not match any of the samples contained within existing DNA databases. An additional DNA profile, which was linked to Jomaine Case, was found on one of Styrofoam cups.

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The continued investigation into the homicide, revealed that the shooter was reportedly from New York City and was merely visiting the Reading area on the night of this crime. Without any additional information or tips, the identity of the shooter remained unknown.

In 2023, as part of a cold case initiative launched by the Berks County District Attorney’s Office, this investigation was reviewed and re-examined by the Berks County Detectives Unit and the West Reading Borough Police Department.  

In 2012, a photograph of the alleged shooter was taken with a cellular phone, by an alleged associate at a party sometime before this homicide. The photograph was extracted from the cellular phone and retained by investigators.

Berks County District Attorney’s Office: Photograph of Slaughter investigators used with facial-recognition software.

In November of 2023, investigators utilized facial-recognition software to assist in identifying the subject in the photo. As a result, investigators determined that Vallis L. Slaughter, originally of Brooklyn, New York, was the person likely depicted in this photograph.

In December of 2023, Slaughter was found to be residing with his mother in Jersey City, New Jersey. Surveillance was conducted at the Jersey City address.

On February 9, 2024, surveillance units observed Slaughter walking on the sidewalk in the 200 block of Fulton Avenue in Jersey City, New Jersey. Slaughter could be seen smoking a cigarette and prior to entering his mother’s residence, he discarded this cigarette onto the sidewalk. The cigarette butt, which was still smoldering, was then collected by detectives, and sent to the Pennsylvania State Police Forensic Crime Laboratory for DNA comparison to the profile previously submitted from this investigation.  

In March of 2024, investigators were notified by the Pennsylvania State Police Forensic Crime Laboratory that the DNA extracted from the filter of the cigarette butt matched the DNA profile previously identified on the bitten piece of Styrofoam cup that was collected from the crime scene.

On Monday, March 18, 2024, members of the West Reading Police Department and the Berks County District Attorney’s Detectives Unit obtained a warrant of arrest for the defendant issued by Magisterial District Judge Eric J. Taylor.

On Wednesday, March 20, 2024, at approximately 6:15 AM, the defendant was taken into custody by the Jersey City (NJ) Police Department at his mother’s residence.  The defendant is currently being held at the Hudson County (NJ) Correctional Facility awaiting extradition to Berks County, PA.

A criminal complaint is an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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Berks Weekly
Berks Weekly
Berks Weekly is an independent and locally owned digital newspaper covering the City of Reading and Berks County. Subscribe today: berksweekly.com/subscribe
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