PUTNAM COUNTY, W.Va. (WOWK) — The murder and sexual assault case that has haunted the family of Sharron Prior for almost 50 years has a new suspect.
New DNA evidence shows that Franklin Maywood Romine of Putnam County could have been responsible for Prior’s death.
On March 29, 1975, officials say 16-year-old Sharron Prior from Longueuil, Québec, Canada, left her mother’s home that evening to be with friends at a local pizza parlor, a normal routine for her. However, she never made it back home.
Her body was found three days later in a nearby park, partially nude with her underwear hanging on a tree. The investigation revealed that she had been sexually assaulted and murdered.
“There were some strangulation marks, trauma to her head,” Putnam County Prosecutor Mark Sorsaia said Saturday morning, after speaking with Longueuil Police Department officials this week.
The case ran cold for nearly 48 years but it was reopened by Longueuil Police Cold Case Detective Sgt. Eric Racicot.
A shirt was collected as evidence along with a man’s DNA sample found on Prior’s underwear. Longueuil Police Department used this evidence along with modern technology and narrowed the search to the family name “Romine.”
After investigating further, a Putnam County man, Franklin Maywood Romine’s criminal history, including being convicted of rape and assault, made him a prime suspect.
However, Romine was 900 miles away in Putnam County, West Virginia, and dead. That’s when Putnam County Prosecutor Mark Sorsaia came into the picture.
“It was up to me to file the legal petition of the circuit court to get approval for the exhumation,” Sorsaia says regarding his involvement in the case.
Tuesday, Sorsaia, along with the FBI and Longueuil Police officials exhumed the body.
Investigators were able to collect the DNA samples they needed and now, they’ll be tested to see if it matches the DNA found on the scene back in 1975.
While the victim and the main suspect are both dead now, the closure could be just over the horizon for Sharron Prior’s family.
This is a developing story.