Son shocked to learn father indicted in 1985 Jacksonville murder

David Nelson Austin charged with 1st-degree murder in killing of Leslie McCray, 17

We hear from a man whose father is accused of murdering a Jacksonville teen on Christmas Eve, 1985.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After more than 35 years, a man has been indicted in the murder of a Jacksonville teenager. Last week, David Nelson Austin was indicted on a charge of first-degree murder in the stabbing death of Leslie McCray, 17.

Austin’s son, Owen, told News4Jax on Tuesday that he’s never met his dad, who has been in a Michigan prison for more that 30 years on unrelated charges. They have, however, spoken via email.

A recent email Austin’s son received from his father reads: “I do have some bad news. I don’t know really know how to say it. I am being charged with a cold case murder and kidnapping in Florida from 1985.”

“When I heard murder, that was kind of shocking,” Owen Austin said.

JSO said newly developed DNA evidence linked David Austin to McCray’s murder.

Police said on Christmas Eve in 1985, she and her boyfriend woke up to a stranger kneeling by their bed with a knife. Her boyfriend was tied up and she was kidnapped from their apartment in Avondale.

Investigators said McCray was found stabbed to death on Old Middleburg Road just hours later.

Owen Austin said his parents lived together in Jacksonville at the time -- before he or his brothers had been born. He said his mother left and his father followed.

In Michigan, David Austin has been serving a life sentence for convictions in sexual assault cases.

“I was born and he was already incarcerated, so I really don’t share any emotional attachment other than embarrassment when I hear his name,” Owen Austin said.

Owen Austin said his family opened up about his father’s criminal history when he became a teenager, revealing the full story before his mother’s death two years ago.

In the email he sent his son, David Austin writes “No, I didn’t do it. Does it matter at this point for me to even say that?”

The State Attorney’s Office said it’s working to extradite David Austin to Florida.

About the Author:

Renee Beninate is a Florida native and award-winning reporter who joined the News4Jax team in June 2021.