Canadian police said Tuesday they have solved one of the highest-profile cold cases in Quebec history, linking the 1975 rape and murder of a 16-year-old girl to a West Virginia man who died more than 40 years ago. Police in Longueuil, Quebec, said that DNA evidence allows them to be 100% certain that Franklin Maywood Romine murdered teenager Sharron Prior in the Montreal suburb. The body of Romine, who was born in 1946 in Huntington, West Virginia, and died in 1982 at the age of 36 in Verdun, Montreal, under mysterious circumstances, was exhumed from a West Virginia cemetery in early May for DNA testing intended to confirm his link to the crime.
Longueuil police say the DNA of Romine—who had a long criminal history—matches a sample found on a man's shirt that was used to restrain the teen, reports the CBC. He also matched a witness' physical description of the suspect. The rape and killing of Prior had gone unsolved since she disappeared on March 29, 1975, after setting out to meet friends at a pizza parlor near her home in Montreal’s Pointe-St-Charles neighborhood. Her body was found three days later in a wooded area in Longueuil, on Montreal’s South Shore, reports the AP.
Law enforcement investigated more than 100 suspects over the years, but never made any arrests. Yvonne Prior, the teenager's mother, is now in her 80s, still lives in Canada, and has spent her life searching for her daughter's killer. Romine’s name didn't come up in the investigation until last year, according to WCHS-TV of Charleston, West Virginia. When Longueuil police said started looking through criminal records, they found an extensive history of violence and attempts by Romine to evade law enforcement by moving between West Virginia and Canada.
In 1974, he was arrested for breaking into a house and raping a woman in Parkersburg, West Virginia. He was released on a $2,500 bond two months later and fled to Canada, according to an AP story from the time. Just months after Prior's murder in 1975, Romine was captured by Canadian border officials and extradited back to West Virginia, where he was sentenced to five to 10 years in prison for sexual assault in the Parkersburg case. He died in Canada in 1982, shortly after his release. "You may never have come back to our house on Congregation Street that weekend," said sister Moreen Prior at a news conference. "But you have never left our hearts and you never will. We love you, Sharron. May you now truly rest in peace."
(Read more cold cases