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DNA evidence leads to suspect in 48-year-old Sharron Prior murder cold case

Using DNA testing, Longueuil police (SPAL) believe they have a suspect in the decades-old murder cold case of Sharron Prior, who was killed in Montreal's Pointe-Saint-Charles neighbourhood in 1975.

The late Franklin Maywood Romine of Putnam County, West Virginia, was 28 at the time of Prior's death on March 29 and has been identified as the prime suspect in the killing.

"Mr. Romine had a big criminal record. He had violent crimes in his past and he also had sexual assault [charges] against him," said SPAL sergeant Francis Charette on Monday.

SPAL detective sergeant Eric Racicot testified by video in a West Virginia courtroom to have his remains exhumed after a new technique analyzing DNA left at the crime scene with family records.

Racicot testified in court that the killer left his DNA on Prior's clothing.

"The same profile was found on the shirt that was used to tie the victim," he added.

In addition, Racicot testified that shortly before Prior's death at around 7 p.m., a suspect matching Romine's description attempted to kidnap a woman at knifepoint, speaking English. The suspect evaded capture.

"We consider this event to be related to Sharron's murder since it happened on the road Sharron Prior took to go to the pizzeria," he said.

DNA testing in 2022 allowed investigators to narrow down the search to those with the surname of Romine.

From there, Racicot discovered that Romine had lived in Montreal and Longueuil at the time of Prior's killing.

The 16-year-old disappeared in Pointe-Saint-Charles on her way to meet friends at a restaurant. Her badly beaten, naked body was later found in a field in Longueuil.

Racicot added in court that Romine has an extensive criminal record from 1955 to 1974, "including breaking and entering, grand larceny, multiple prison breaks, theft, impaired driving, hit-and-run, and rape."

He was not incarcerated at the time of the murder, Racicot testified, and committed a rape in West Virginia in 1974.

"He then fled to Canada where he committed the abduction and murder of Sharron Prior in Montreal," the detective said in court.

He was arrested in Montreal later that year on the West Virginia rape and extradited to the U.S.

The judge granted the request to exhume Romine's remains. Longueuil police officers were on site when his body was removed.

Evidence collected from Romine's grave is currently being analyzed in Montreal.

Romine died in 1982 in Verdun when he was 36 years old. He was buried in Putnam County.

Though both the victim and suspect are dead, solving the case remains a priority for those who knew Prior.

"It was a really special moment," said SPAL sergeant Francis Charette on Monday morning. "I had thoughts for the family who had been waiting for nearly 48 years in this case that maybe we would be able to provide them some answers after all those years."

For investigators, the new technique of matching DNA evidence will provide answers to more families of violent cold cases.

"There may be the possibility that other cold cases will be able to be resolved by this technique," said Charette. Top Stories

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