VIRGINIA BEACH, Va (WVEC) – A Norfolk man says he ended a lengthy sentence in New York only to be flown to Hampton Roads in connection to an almost two decades old crime.
Clifford Lee, who told 13News Now his real name is Gilford, was arrested last month on an aggravated malicious wounding charge, among others.
"They picked me up at the jail and we flew back here the same day," said Lee.
New court documents reveal police put out a warrant after connecting Lee through a DNA Index System.
That paperwork says that in November 1999, a cashier was robbed and shot in the shoulder behind the Asia Grocery store off of Virginia Beach Blvd.
Documents say the suspect got away with three dollars from the victim, but left behind shell casings and a ski mask.
Virginia Beach police submitted the mask to the Division of Forensics Science, but a profile wasn’t developed until 2016, according to documents.
The mask was then resubmitted and due to ‘changes’ in the National DNA Index System, police were able to develop a profile which got a match in New York: Clifford (Gilford) Lee.
"I'm an innocent man.” Lee told 13News Now from behind bars.
Lee said he was serving time in New York on a manslaughter charge. He says he pleaded guilty.
At the time of the alleged robbery, he said he lived in Hampton Roads with family.
He referred us to his lawyer when we asked about his thoughts on the DNA connection.
"Don't judge a book by its cover,” he said. “I made a mistake, but I paid the price for that mistake."
"Just, don't judge me."
13News Now spoke to the victim who was 25 at the time. This latest arrest has restored his faith.
“I actually gave up on the case,” said Dat Loung. “I got a call July 4th. I didn’t think they would ever solve it. I think it will help solve more cases.”
If convicted Lee could face two life sentences, according to Commonwealth Attorney’s Office Spokesperson, Macie Allen.
Lee is scheduled to go on trial in February, but that will most likely be continued, Allen said.