One of Canada’s most famous cold cases has been solved after police exhumed the remains of a convicted West Virginia rapist who had been dead since 1982 and matched his DNA to a murder scene.
Sharron Prior, 16, was kidnapped in 1975 while she was on her way to meet friends for pizza in Montreal. She was later found raped and beaten to death in Longueuil, Quebec.
For almost 50 years, the identity of her killer has been a mystery, even though police ran down dozens of possible suspects. But as with so many other cases in recent years, advances in DNA testing and genetic sleuthing gave investigators the break they needed.
Experts were able to create a family tree using DNA found on Prior’s body and gave detectives the last name of Romine. They determined that a fugitive named Franklin Romine had been in Canada at the time of Prior’s death, and obtained DNA from his surviving brothers.
“He probably did it,” one of the brothers told police, according to court records.
The results from the brothers’ DNA led them to dig up Romine’s body—over the objections of his family—which resulted in a 100 percent match.
“We are still grieving the loss of our daughter and sister who was savagely murdered,” Prior’s sister Maureen said during a press conference on Tuesday, according to WCHS. “Sharron has given us strength for the last 48 years and especially today.”
Romine was born in West Virginia in 1946, and his criminal record began in childhood. In 1974, he was charged with raping a woman in Parkersburg; released on bond, he fled to Canada.
He was captured there in late 1975 and extradited back to West Virginia, where he pleaded guilty in 1981 to sexual assault and was sentenced to five years in prison. After his release, he returned to Canada, where he died in 1982, WCHS said.
“The solving of Sharron’s case will never bring Sharron back. But knowing that her killer is no longer on this Earth and won’t kill anymore, brings us to somewhat of a closure,” Prior’s sister said.