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Suspect Arrested In Slaying of Art Student

September 18, 1988

NEW YORK (AP) _ A paroled killer with a drug addiction was arrested Saturday night and charged with murdering a 24-year-old Arkansas artist a week after she arrived in New York City to study, police said.

The suspect, Frank DeChirico, 37, of Brooklyn, was grabbed by police on a Brooklyn street corner and charged in Wednesday’s slaying of Judith Anne Wrappe of Little Rock, said police spokesman Sgt. Raymond O’Donnell.

DeChirico is addicted to crack, the highly potent cocaine derivative, and was paroled in December 1986 after serving 13 1/2 years for manslaughter, O’Donnell said.

Miss Wrappe was shot in the chest when she would not give up her purse to a robber near the Brooklyn campus of the Pratt Institute, where she had just begun studying for a graduate degree in fine arts.

The arrest came hours after hundreds of friends and relatives gathered at a requiem Mass in her hometown and remembered Miss Wrappe for her spirit of independence and her vision as an artist.

″She wanted to stand on her own,″ said Bishop Andrew J. McDonald. ″She wanted to prove her independence. That very spirit found her on the streets of New York on the way home after finishing her part-time job earlier this week. On that street, the artist, the hard worker, died, a victim of senseless crime.″

DeChirico was picked up by police just blocks from the slaying, at about 7:30 p.m., said O’Donnell. He was booked for murder, robbery and criminal possession of a deadly weapon, the spokesman said.

The last charge involves the alleged murder weapon, which was not recovered, O’Donnell said. Police had no immediate details about the suspect’s previous manslaughter conviction.

DeChirico was identified by several witnesses in the area of the shooting, O’Donnell said. Miss Wrappe was fatally shot when she refused to surrender her purse to an attacker as she returned home from her first night at work.

Witnesses said Miss Wrappe, who was shot in the chest, struggled with the robber and screamed as he took her purse about 1 a.m. one block from her dormitory. She was returning home after her first night at a part-time job as a waitress in Manhattan.

Police found Miss Wrappe’s purse a couple of blocks away, with a dollar and other objects inside.

Miss Wrappe, of Little Rock, was a 1987 graduate of Notre Dame University. McDonald said Miss Wrappe’s parents gave their six children space to ″grow and be themselves. Judith Anne marched to a different drummer. She set standards for herself. ... She was not afraid to be different. Judith Anne was an artist - photography, water coloring, charcoal, painting.″

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