Nearly 16 years after a 17-year-old girl disappeared from Campbell, her killer pleaded guilty Thursday to the murder and was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office announced. Sylvia Ann Lee was last seen on the afternoon of Oct. 31, 1995, by her boyfriend as she boarded a transit bus blocks from the Campbell Police Department.
She had planned to transfer to a light-rail train to reach her grandmother’s house in San Jose. She never arrived. Wilbur Wade Atcherley, a recent resident of Campbell at the time, had been at the Police Department that day to complete his registration as a convicted sex offender. Atcherley had been convicted of a number of forcible sexual assaults, including kidnapping and rape.
Atcherley, now 50, was not a suspect at the time Sylvia vanished, but on the fifth anniversary of her disappearance he contacted investigators and offered to assist in solving the case, although he did not claim responsibility, according to the district attorney’s office. In the time in between, Atcherley was convicted of the attempted murder and sexual assault of a woman in Gilroy whom he took to a remote area and beat before he cut her throat and left her to die.
He was sentenced in 1999 to 36 years to life in prison. During an interview conducted by Campbell police investigators, Atcherley confessed to murdering Sylvia and provided details that only the killer would have known, according to the district attorney’s office. He allegedly said he met the girl at the Curtner light-rail station and took her by taxi to a remote location in New Almaden, where he murdered her and left her body on the bank of a creek bed.
Records from the Yellow Cab taxi company indicated a fare on that date near the light rail station with a drop-off in New Almaden, prosecutors said. Atcherley was transported from prison earlier this year to the area where he murdered Sylvia to indicate to investigators where the crime happened. Investigators did not locate her remains. Atcherley faces a total sentence of 76 years to life for the murder of Lee, the 1999 Gilroy case and a conviction in 2000 of possession a weapon in prison, prosecutors said.
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