Neighbors of NYC cold-case victims relieved by Larry Atkinson bust

Neighbors of the Manhattan mother and daughter found strangled to death inside their apartment near three decades ago were breathing a sigh of relief Tuesday after cops finally made an arrest in the cold case killings.

“I’m happy they got him,” one longtime tenant of the Grant Houses public housing complex in Harlem told The Post of suspect Larry Atkinson, who was charged with the slayings Monday after DNA evidence allegedly linked him to the chilling crime.

Atkinson, an ex-con, was dating the home health care aide who discovered victims Sarah Roberts, 57, and her 25-year-old special-needs daughter, Sharon, dead inside their sixth-floor apartment on Feb. 20, 1994.

“I was afraid after I heard about it,” said the tenant, a building resident since 1981 who was friends with the younger victim. “There were a lot of cops on the floor. People were afraid.

“I didn’t think it was going to be solved because it happened so long ago, but they did it,” she added.

“The mystery has been solved and that’s a very good thing.”

Sarah Roberts and her daughter Sharon were found strangled to death in their Harlem apartment on Feb. 20, 1994.
New York Post

It took some 28 years, however, for the cops to finally arrest their suspect after an NYPD cold case detective re-tested DNA found at the scene — including from cigarette butts and fingernail clippings.

Cops found no evidence of forced entry after the mom and daughter’s home attendant made the grisly discovery and called 911.

Sarah Roberts was found on her bed and her daughter was on the floor with “a woolen stocking wrapped around her neck,” cops said in 1994. A video cassette recorder and several hundred dollars in cash were stolen, police said.

Sharon Roberts
Sharon Roberts was 25 when she was killed in 1994.
Francis Spekcer/New York Post

Madis Crowell, 72, who has lived in the building since 1978, recalled hearing voices in the Roberts’ apartment, which is directly upstairs from hers.

“I think about it all the time,” Crowell said. “It bothered me because I live right below them. I used to see her going out and coming in with her daughter. It was always the two of them.

“But it’s good that they caught him,” she said. “It will bring some form of closure to the family. They now know who did it even though it’s not going to bring them back.

“People like him do not have a conscience,” Crowell added. “He has no feelings at all.”

Atkinson, 64, was picked up by the NYPD Bronx Cold Case Squad around 7:30 a.m. for the nearly three-decades-old strangulation deaths of Sarah and Sharon, police said. He is now charged with two counts of second-degree murder.

Larry Atkinson, 64, wheeled by an EMT.
Larry Atkinson, 64, is charged with murder in the 1994 slaying of Sarah Roberts and her daughter, Sarah.
Tomas E. Gaston for NY Post

Atkinson was dating health care aide Celeste Cornelius, who cared for Sharon Roberts, who was developmentally disabled — and still lives with the accused killer.

The aide, Celeste Cornelius, stood by her man on Monday. 

“I know he didn’t do it,” she said outside their Harlem apartment. “I don’t want you to misquote me but I know he didn’t do it. I don’t care about the DNA — none of that mess. He didn’t do it.”

One 40-year building resident who asked to be identified only as Taylor recalled the terror that engulfed the building after cops made the grisly discovery.

“Nobody knew who did it and why,” Taylor said. “We talked about it for a long time. 

“I am happy that they catch him,” he said. “She was a very nice lady.”

Atkinson, who is battling cancer, was hospitalized following his arrest. He was awaiting arraignment Tuesday.