Syracuse Police track down 2007 cold case murder suspect

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) - Syracuse Police believe they’ve found the man responsible for the 2007 murder of Silas Collier.

Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler announced on Tuesday the arrest of 29-year-old Alfred J. Thomas Jr.

Police charged Thomas with second-degree murder and second-degree criminal possession of a weapon.

They say Collier was giving a friend a ride on Mark Avenue on the night he was shot, just before midnight.

While he waited outside, Thomas allegedly entered the vehicle, shooting Collier.

Police say they found the murder weapon five years later, but weren't ready to make an arrest until this week.

"Probably three dozen people were interviewed and re-interviewed and then a collection of some physical evidence that we had analysis (done) - it was a combination of physical evidence and some cooperation from certain people," said Detective John Nolan with the Cold Case Squad.

Thomas has a prior criminal history, according to police, who declined to elaborate.

It is unclear who is representing Thomas in the murder case.

Nolan says the department has dozens of active cold cases, with a handful of arrests.

He called the Collier family a couple of weeks ago with an update.

"I said we're making some real progress and I can't tell you a lot more. But you may be pleased...and then this (Tuesday) morning I gave an official phone call to Mr. Collier and Mrs. Collier," Nolan said. "It was good. We've done it a few times and it is a great phone call for something that is really unthinkable."

Collier's father, also named Silas, welcomed the news with mixed emotions. He sat in the room as the police chief announced the arrest to reporters on Tuesday. 

"It opens old wounds, but also gives us closure. We needed closure," Collier said later. "I appreciate that they stuck with it and didn't give up."

Collier said his son had taken a break from college in western New York and was hoping to transfer to Onondaga Community College, since he preferred spending his free time close to home in Syracuse.

However, the younger Collier - called Keith by friends - was close to his grandmother in Buffalo and had planned to visit her on Mother's Day, which was on May 13 in 2007. He was shot to death on May 12.

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