Teen girl admits strangling 81-year-old woman in break-in

Jennifer Molyneaux also admits to hitting and smothering Helen Mills in her Green Street home

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  • Jennifer Molyneaux

— A teenage girl has pleaded guilty to strangling an 81-year-old woman while burglarizing the victim's Goshen home before setting it on fire.

Orange County District Attorney David Hoovler announced on Feb. 26 that Jennifer Molyneaux, 17, of the Town of Wallkill pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for having killed Helen Mills during a botched robbery at Mills' Green Street home on Aug. 2.

On Feb. 25, Molyneaux admitted to Orange County Court Judge Nicholas De Rosa that she had entered Mills' residence with the intention of stealing money. She also admitted to placing her hands on the elderly woman’s throat, hitting her, and smothering her with a pillow before gasoline was spread around the house and set ablaze. Molyneaux said she had taken drugs before committing the crime.

Before Molyneaux pleaded guilty, prosecutors told Judge De Rosa that the District Attorney’s Office would be recommending a sentence of 25 years to life in state prison, Hoovler said. Molyneaux is scheduled to be sentenced on May 1.

“There is a nexus between illicit narcotics and violent crime,” said Hoovler. “It is utterly reprehensible that anyone would kill a defenseless, elderly, woman in her own bedroom. My office will strongly recommend that a sentence of 25 years to life in prison be imposed on this defendant. We must hold accountable those who violently victimize defenseless citizens to get money to feed their drug habits.”

Devin Giordano, 19, of the Village of Goshen, was indicted by a grand jury along with Molyneaux. He is scheduled to appear in county court on March 2.

Investigation finds foul playOn Aug. 2, 2014, at approximately 4 a.m., the Village of Goshen Police Department and the Goshen Fire Department responded to a structure fire at the victim’s two-story residence at 84 Green St. in the village. An autopsy found that Mills suffered blunt force trauma wounds on her head, and throat injuries consistent with her having been beaten and strangled.

It was apparent to the village police, which did the initial investigation, that Mills was the victim of a homicide. The village reached out to the New York State Police and asked that the investigation be conducted jointly with the state police and the Orange County Fire Investigations Unit. Evidence indicating the use of fire accelerants was found in several locations inside Mills' residence, including in her bedroom, in the vicinity where her body was found.

An Orange County Grand Jury indicted Molyneaux and Giordano with second-degree murder, first-degree burglary, and first-degree arson.

District Attorney Hoovler thanked the Village of Goshen Police Department, the state police, and Orange County Fire Investigations Unit for their investigation of this case.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorneys Leah Canton and Christopher Kelly.

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