Body of Franklin Romine exhumed in May for DNA testing in Sharron Prior case.
Quebec cold case solved after nearly 50 years
Sharron Prior’s family never gave up hope her killer would be found. DNA unearthed his secret.
WARNING: This article contains graphic content and may affect those who have experienced sexual violence or know someone affected by it.
Sharron Prior, a Montreal teen who was found dead in 1975, was raped and killed by Franklin Romine, an American from West Virginia, investigators said on Tuesday.
The cold case, which had puzzled detectives for 48 years, was solved thanks to new DNA testing techniques and the persistence of Prior’s family, who fought to keep her death from being forgotten.
“The solving of Sharron’s case will never bring Sharron back,” Doreen Prior, one of Sharron’s younger sisters said at a news conference, “but knowing that her killer is no longer on this earth and cannot kill anymore brings us to somewhat of a closure.”
Prior’s murder had gone unsolved since she disappeared after setting out to meet friends at a pizza parlour near her home in Montreal’s Pointe-St-Charles neighbourhood.
Her body was found three days later in a wooded area in Longueuil, on Montreal’s South Shore.
Romine was living in Montreal at the time. He had a long criminal record and encounters with law enforcement in Montreal and West Virginia, including at least one rape conviction, but was not initially a suspect in her death. He died in 1982 at the age of 36.
He matched the description of a suspect and his car matched tire tracks found at the scene where Sharron’s body was recovered.
Ultimately, it was DNA evidence found on a man’s shirt used to restrain Sharron that confirmed him as the killer.
Montreal teen whose 1975 killing was just solved can now ‘truly rest in peace,’ sister says
Moreen and Doreen Prior say their older sister, Sharron Prior, can finally rest in peace after police solved the 1975 cold case.
In 1975, the amount of DNA gathered at the scene was insufficient to be tested or used in court but it was kept over the years in the hope that it could someday be used to find a match for a suspect as technology improved.
The samples were sent to a laboratory in West Virginia in 2019 and later matched to Romine’s relatives using data from genealogical websites.
Once police matched the DNA from the crime scene to the Romine family from West Virginia, investigators met with Romine’s brothers to gather their DNA. They determined that theirs was a near match to the genetic material recovered from the crime scene.
Next, police exhumed Romine’s body earlier this month and tested his DNA against the DNA left at the crime scene.
Sarah Bourgoin, the director of the biology and DNA department at Quebec’s national forensic laboratory, said retrieving a full genetic profile from Romine’s bones was a difficult task.
“Happily, here it worked,” she said. “We were able to establish a genetic profile by comparing it to the unknown profile in Sharron Prior’s case. We remarked that it was identical, which confirmed that it was indeed Franklin Romine who left his DNA at the scene.”
Bourgoin said the advances in DNA testing technology and growing databases provide potent tools for law enforcement to use to solve cold cases.
“We have hope that there are lots of cases that we will able to solve or at least find new leads with the tools we have,” she said. “Those cases can have a happy ending, like Sharron Prior’s.”
Family never gave up
Longueuil police, the agency that investigated Sharron’s death, said the family’s dogged pursuit of justice was a key factor that led to them finding the killer.
Prior’s two younger sisters, Doreen and Moreen, grew emotional as they described Sharron at a news conference on Tuesday.
Sharron was a kind, warm-hearted young girl who dreamed of being a veterinarian, the sisters said.
“She was a beautiful young lady with a heart of gold,” Doreen said.
When she went missing — on Easter weekend — the family was distraught. Decades later, they are still scarred by the violence and tragedy of her death, the sisters said. But they thanked the people of Pointe-Saint-Charles for their support over the years as they struggled with her death and all the unanswered questions about the killer’s identity.
“We will always be your mom, your little brother and sisters who sat there at that window that Easter weekend hoping to see you walking on home,” said Moreen.
“You may never have come back to our house on Congregation Street that weekend. But you have never left our hearts and you never will. We love you, Sharron. May you now truly rest in peace.”
Support is available for anyone who has been sexually assaulted. You can access crisis lines and local support services through this Government of Canada website or theEnding Violence Association of Canada database. If you’re in immediate danger or fear for your safety or that of others around you, please call 911.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Matthew Lapierre is a digital journalist at CBC Montreal. He previously worked for the Montreal Gazette and the Globe and Mail. You can reach him at email@example.com.
Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca