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Friend of high school senior Roseanne Spina hoping for justice more than five decades after she was brutally killed

The 17-year-old high school senior was brutally beaten and strangled to death in the early morning hours of September 23, 1967.

When two high schools from opposite sides of the tracks in Syracuse, New York, merged in the 1960s to form a brand new school, some of the students were worried

Vivian Jakway Quinones and her friend and classmate Roseanne Spina grew up on the poor side of the tracks, “the slums,” she described it.

“They thought we were gangs and we thought they were rich snobs,” she said with a laugh. “But it wasn’t like that at all. We became close. And then when Roseanne was killed, I think that… that tragedy brought everyone closer.”

Roseanne Spina

Now, nearly 55 years later, there aren’t many of those students left. The ones who are still around are good friends. And are planning their upcoming 55th high school reunion.

But there’s one person who has never been to a reunion, but her friends and classmates continue to remember her fondly.

“We talked about her last night,” Vivian told Dateline, referring to her most recent planning meeting for the reunion. “Her family and other close friends are long gone, but we don’t ever want the lovely memory of her to fade.”

Vivian said she remembers her friend who was pretty, polite, petite, but also tough and strong and independent. And when a dozen fire trucks responded to the school, Vivian said they were the reason why.

“It’s my favorite story about Roseanne to tell,” Vivian said. “And it’s the one that keeps me smiling.”

She went on to tell Dateline that Roseanne was having trouble retrieving a feminine product from the dispenser in the ladies room so she called on Vivian to help.

“I had long, slender fingers so she thought I could help,” she said with a laugh. “But it didn’t work and oh, did it backfire.”

Vivian said her hand became stuck and after several classmates and teacher attempted to help with no success, the fire department was called.

“Oh, you should’ve seen the commotion,” she exclaimed. “The firefighters showed up in their truck, one after the other, sirens and lights on, because it’s a school, you know, they take it very seriously. And there they all are with their yellow slickers. And there’s Roseanne, just amused by the chaos she caused.”

Vivian added that it’s one of her favorite memories of her friend.

“She was from the slums, the wrong side of the tracks,” Vivian said with a laugh. “That girl could hold her own. She was as tough as she was sweet.”

The tone in Vivian’s voice changed as she talked about what her friend must have felt like when she was being attacked back in September of 1967.

“I know she fought,” she said. “I know she fought with all she had. She didn’t go down without a fight.”

Vivian told Dateline that Roseanne was out with friends on September 22, 1967, the night she disappeared. She told her mother she was going to spend the night at a friend’s house, but instead they went to a bar. According to a Syracuse Police report, Roseanne was last seen leaving a bar called Rinaldi’s on Burnet Avenue around 3 a.m. on September 23.

She was never seen again.

Vivian said she recalls finding out that her friend was missing through word of mouth, and that Roseanne’s mother reported her missing when she hadn’t returned home. But in Vivian’s mind, everything would be OK.

Everything changed on Monday, September 25, when a passerby discovered a body in a vacant gravel lot in the 700 block of Canal Street, near the railroad tracks. It was Roseanne.

According to the Star-Gazette, a local New York paper, the 17-year-old was found in the tall weeds. She had been raped and appeared to have been strangled with her slip. Roseanne had been dead for 24 hours before her body was found, according to the Onondaga County Medical Examiner's Office.

The paper also reported that the friend with Roseanne that night told police she left the bar around 3 a.m. and while she saw Roseanne talking with a few young men on the sidewalk, she got a ride home on her own. At the time, police wanted to question more teens who might have had contact with Roseanne that night, but were reportedly unsuccessful.

Details of her case, which remains an active investigation, are posted to the Syracuse Police Department’s Cold Case unit site and urge those with information to contact them.

Vivian is still hoping someone will come forward with information about her friend’s murder, or that new DNA technology will bring the killer to justice.

She added that the tragedy shocked their town, and no one was ever really the same.

“Oh, it was horrifying, just horrifying. The preceding Easter, I had lost my mother,” Vivian said. “But most of us had never been touched by death. And this - this brutal killing. Someone so young. It was more than any of us could comprehend.”

For 55 years, Vivian has thought of her friend and classmate, wondering if she would ever see a newspaper clipping or breaking news bulletin on TV about an arrest. But it hasn’t happened.

Roseanne’s parents and siblings have all passed away, her brother Jack just within the last few years.

“He was really the one who kept fighting to find her killer,” Vivian said. “I’m fearful that it ended with him.”

She added that she’s not sure what can be done all these years later, but she continues to share Roseanne’s story, especially around this time of year, with the hope someone will come forward.

“It won’t bring her back,” Vivian said. “But she deserves justice anyway - and her soul deserves to be at peace.”

Anyone with information about Roseanne’s case is urged to contact the Syracuse Police Department Cold Case Homicide Squad at (315) 442-5234 or by e-mail at coldcasesquad@syracusepolice.org. All tips will be kept confidential.