FAIRMONT, W.Va. – It’s been 31 years since 14-year-old Fame Cooper’s remains were found. The Fairmont native was last seen at an arcade in July of 1990 before she was reported missing and then found in a wooded area in Barrackville months later. Though it’s been years since there’s been any update shared with the public on the case, the Marion County Sheriff’s office said they are still working to solve the open investigation. And now, podcasters from across the country are learning about the case and trying to bring it to light.
One of those podcasters is Barbara Bowyer in Arizona. Bowyer is a Fairmont native and fan of crime podcasts. She learned about the case from a conversation she had with her mom about an episode of Crime Junkie. Her mom said that it reminded her of the Fame Cooper case.
“[She said], ‘And Dad’s best friend was the prime suspect [in Fame’s case].’ And I was like, ‘Wait, hold up. What do you mean?'”
Not only did Bowyer’s family know the prime suspect, Norbert McGinty, but the family ended up becoming somewhat involved when he fled the area.
“The FBI showed up on our doorstep looking for my dad because Norbert was using his name. He was living under his name as an alias,” Bowyer explained, “So one day, the FBI knocked on our door, and my mom was like, ‘What’s going on here?'”
Bowyer started digging and interviewing people about the case over six months ago. Being an older case with little electronic records, she said working on this case has taught her to be more creative with how she finds information.
“I think we live in such a technologically advanced state of the world, and we’re so used to getting everything immediately and just searching for something and the answer coming to us right away,” Bowyer said, “So, I think for me, this has taught me to become a lot more patient in the way that I try to gather information in addition to not seeing every dead end as the end-all-be-all.”
Bowyer said she decided that a podcast would be the best way to tell the story of this case because there are a lot of moving parts to the case and should be told in bite-sized pieces for the audience to digest. She said, of what listeners can expect, “I think people are going to get angry. I think people are going to listen to this podcast and think, ‘What the f? Like, how is this not solved?'”
“I cannot give this case up. I just can’t and won’t until we know definitively that [McGinty is] not involved,” said Bowyer, “And if he isn’t, somebody else got away with murder, or if he is, he’s gotten away with murder and a lot of other terrible crimes for far too long. So yeah, it’s personal. This case is personal for me.”
Bowyer’s first podcast is out now. She plans to post new episodes every other week.
Listen to Barbara Bowyer’s podcast: “Fameless: The Untold Story of Fame Cooper”
Meanwhile, in Mason, Ohio, a class of high school seniors have made their own podcast on cold cases and have set their sights this semester on Fame Cooper’s investigation. Randy Hubbard, a science teacher, started the class in 2018 as an extension of Mason High School’s forensics class.
“A student and I were sitting in our regular forensics class and we were talking about cold cases and things we saw on TV and a couple of podcasts, and we decided to try one on our own just to see what it would be like,” Hubbard explained, “And we both decided that this is probably a pretty cool class if we could put it together, so actually, a student helped me write the curriculum for it, and [the school] okayed it and let us try.”
The class’s goals are to spread awareness about the cold cases they investigate, so at the end of the semester, the students present their findings to the public and post a podcast episode to social media. Tessa Zecchino, Arya Abid, and Sofia Gray are the students in the group who are working on Fame’s case.
“Obviously, we don’t think we will solve this completely. We just want to provide any assistance we can to the police,” said Abid, “We know that a big reason why cases go unsolved is because of a lack of manpower and resources, so we wanted to volunteer time to try to help out any way we can.”
The group picked Fame’s case from a list of cases to work on. Abid said it caught her eye because she’s from West Virginia.
“Also, Fame’s case caught our attention because at the time of her murder, she was 14 years old, so not too far from our age,” Abid explained.
The group has already started filing FOIA requests and interviewing Fame’s friends and family about the case. They said that their requests were denied, but they still managed to get a good amount of information from the interviews.
“We’re really grateful for all the help that we have gotten and all the people who have responded and who are willing to work with us,” said Zecchino, “Any little information is a lot of information for us, and even though we’ve been denied FOIA requests, our spirits are still high to try to keep spreading the word.”
The class’s final presentation will take place on April 28th.