Almost 20 years ago, Nashedra Strong-Clay was robbed, raped and left for dead in her home.
On Tuesday, at a press conference inside West Point Police Department announcing the arrest of her alleged assailant, she expressed relief.
“I’m so thankful to God because I never thought I’d get to see this day,” Clay said. “I’ve been waiting 19 and a half years, and all I asked for was a fair shot.”
Fredrick Fitzgerald Gandy, 52, of West Point, was arrested Monday for the 2003 incident. He is charged with rape, attempted murder, burglary and robbery. He is being held at the Clay County Jail, and his bond is set at $950,000. His first court appearance will be Friday, according to WPPD Chief Avery Cook.
Clay said she reached out to Detective Rameriz Ivy on April 5, urging him to take another look at her case. Investigators used DNA evidence to determine the suspect.
“In many of these situations, we don’t get the privilege to have the victim along with us, so I think it’s an awesome thing,” Ivy said. “I’d like to change ‘victim’ to ‘survivor’ to ‘warrior.’ … It’s always a good day when we can give answers to the victims, so we thank God for giving us guidance.”
District Attorney Scott Colom said Tuesday that Ivy’s team sent DNA that had not previously been sent to the crime lab. The breakthrough came when Gandy was arrested elsewhere, and his DNA was already in the system.
However, Colom would not go into more detail at the press conference.
“Without going into too much detail (pretrial), it led to the arrest, where we are,” Colom said. “It’s very solid evidence. I love DNA evidence because DNA doesn’t lie, and there were some other steps that Detective Ivy took to sure up any doubt as to how that DNA got there.”
Since 2017, DNA has contributed to breakthroughs in two other major cold cases in the Golden Triangle — one in Starkville and one in Columbus. A 1990 murder case in Starkville saw a breakthrough in 2018 when a suspect was arrested charged with capital murder and sexual battery after investigators matched DNA taken from one of his cigarette butts to the DNA profile from the rape kit in the case.
In 2017 in Columbus, a suspect was arrested for capital murder in the July 1996 death of Mack Fowler. The suspect’s DNA sample entered into the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) from the Fowler case, and it was matched with a swab the police collected from the Columbus suspect’s 2016 aggravated assault arrest.
West Point now joins the two towns with a breakthrough in a 19-year-old cold case.
Clay is now a victim advocate in Memphis, Tennessee. She said every day she works with victims who are not treated humanely by investigators, but Detective Ivy treated her very humanely and she is grateful for that.
“Y’all don’t understand. When you wait 19 and a half years and somebody comes along in three months and does something with what was already there, there’s nothing I can say about that except for thank you,” Clay said. “… (Detective Ivy) looked at the case, and he treated me so humanely. That’s what’s missing a lot of times. We like to talk about what people did, who they used to be, how they dressed, but none of that matters. I don’t care if I was a person on the street. I deserve to be treated humanely, and that’s what he did. I asked the Lord to restore me, and when I prayed for me, I prayed for him and Chief Cook.”
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