Police Chief “Happy” To See Nayla Hodnett Murder Case Move Forward

JAMESTOWN –  Jamestown Police Chief Harry Snellings said that he’s “happy” to see the case of the 2014 murder of Nayla Hodnett progressing in court nearly five years after the case took place.

“As an agency, we are happy to see this case is finally moving forward,” Jamestown Police Chief Harry Snellings told WNYNewsNow Monday afternoon. “This has been an ongoing investigation since Day One, and we are hoping for a good outcome.”

Tyler A. “Cash” Perez, 35, of Jamestown, was arrested at 408 Willard St. after a Chautauqua County Grand Jury indicted him on charges of second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter on Monday. Perez was arraigned in Chautauqua County Court this morning by Judge Stephen Cass, and was remanded to Chautauqua County Jail on $500,000 cash or $1,000,000 bail.

Cass noted that a judge from Buffalo will be presiding on the case as it progresses. Public Defender Ned Barone will be representing Perez. Chautauqua County First Assistant District Attorney Michael Flaherty represented the District Attorney’s office at the arraignment.

Snellings said that he couldn’t get into the specifics of the case. The Chief, however, said that the gathering and preservation of evidence in longer investigations “is key.” In addition, Snellings said that he hopes the Hodnett family can experience a feeling of “closure.”

“Our goal is to investigate cases and come to the truth and hopefully make an arrest at the conclusion,” Snellings said. “I don’t know how this replaces a 16-month-old child, but hopefully it brings some kind of closure to the family.”

“There’s no statute of limitations on murder. Anytime we get any new type of evidence, we always try to follow-up, and you never know when a case is going to break,” Snellings said. “Just because you aren’t hearing things in the media, doesn’t mean we aren’t continuing our investigations, we aren’t looking into cases. The police aren’t always the decision makers when cases go forward, and when they get prosecuted.”

Chautauqua County District Attorney Patrick Swanson also declined to comment on specifics of the case following Monday morning’s arraignment, citing that the case remains ongoing. Swanson, however, said that unsolved cases continue to be looked at for evidence.

“With any case of this nature, if it’s left unresolved, it continues to be looked at for analysis of different evidence, witnesses coming forward,” Swanson said. “I wouldn’t call it a cold case because it was always on the front burner, but additional information sometimes gets you where you are.”

Swanson said that, within the last couple of weeks, a Chautauqua County Grand Jury met to discuss a potential indictment, but didn’t say when. In addition, Swanson said that the Perez case (wasn’t confirmed to be the Nayla Hodnett murder at time of interview) and the Rance Freeman murder indictment are examples of law enforcement remaining resilient.

“If you ask anyone involved in this line of work, including the officers investigating, there is no stopping on these cases until they’re resolved,” Swanson said. “The (Rance) Freeman case is a testament to the (Chautauqua County) Sheriff’s Department continuing their work, and in this case, this is JPD. We don’t ignore these cases, we continue to look at them.”

Barone also declined to discuss specifics, but he said that the charges are “merely an accusation” and that the “presumption of innocence” remains. In addition, Barone said that Perez has maintained his innocence for “several” years. (At the time of the Barone interview, the connection between Perez and the Hodnett case wasn’t confirmed.)

WNYNewsNow’s Justin Gould and Matt Hummel contributed to this report. 

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