Gruesome Cold Case Solved After 18 Years

July 13, 2012 Updated Jul 13, 2012 at 6:58 PM EDT

By Kyla Igoe

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July 13, 2012 Updated Jul 13, 2012 at 6:58 PM EDT

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW)- A Buffalo man will now spend 23 years to life in prison for the gruesome 1994 murder of a local mother. 54-year-old James Fountain admitted to stabbing 29-year-old Cynthia Epps to death on June 30th, 1994 and putting her body inside a night stand in the backyard of his home on Montana Avenue in Buffalo. Fountain originally denied any contact with Epps and told police he had found the body near his garage. Erie County District Attorney Frank Sedita said Epps was wrapped in a blanket, had been stabbed multiple times and was nearly decapitated.

"We had no idea. We never knew what happened," said Roxanne Cumberlander, sister of Cynthia Epps.

For years no one was charged with the murder, but that changed in 2010 when the case was reopened. For previous unrelated rape convictions, Fountain's DNA profile was in the New York State Databank and detectives with the Buffalo Cold Case Squad were able to match his profile with DNA collected at the 1994 crime scene. Once detectives confronted Fountain with the DNA evidence, he confessed to the crime

"Fountain admitted to repeatedly stabbing the victim after a sexual encounter. Fountain also admitted that he tried to sever the victim's head and right leg in an attempt to more easily dispose of her body," wrote Erie County District Attorney in a statement.

The victim's family says the conviction has finally brought closure. Epps would have turned 48 this year.

"I Truly forgive him. I know it may be hard for people to understand that because of the murder and the way it took place, but in my heart I truly forgive him," added Cumberlander following Friday's sentencing. "I thank God that this is over with and everyone can go on with their lives."

Fountain's Attorney, Daniel Grasso, said his client has always been remorseful and has taken responsibility for his actions.