A deceased West Virginia man is tied to unsolved sexual assault and murder of 16-year-old girl

After 45 years, one of Canada’s most notorious cold cases has finally been cracked. Canadian authorities have linked the 1975 rape and murder of 16-year-old Sharron Prior in Longueuil, Quebec with Franklin Maywood Romine, a West Virginia man who died in 1982.

Romine had a substantial criminal background— Escape from the West Virginia Penitentiary in 1964, rape in Parkersburg, West Virginia in 1974, and he was on the run in Canada by the time Sharron Prior’s murder occurred. He was arrested months after the homicide and extradited back to West Virginia. He was then sentenced to five to ten years behind bars and died shortly after his release in 1982. His body was buried in a West Virginia cemetery.

But in 2021, Longueuil police officers began to go through criminal records and noticed Romine’s name. In early May of 2023, his remains were excavated from the cemetery and a DNA test determined that his DNA was consistent with the sample found at the murder scene and a witness’ physical description of the suspect.

Sharon’s family finally had the closure they had been waiting for since 1975. Her sister Doreen thanked the police for the “miracle of science” and her mother Yvonne, now in her 80s, expressed relief that the perpetrator has been identified.

The solution to Sharron’s cold case brings to light the potential of genealogy sites to help solve such cases. Several members of law enforcement have utilized genealogy websites to identify other suspects, and police hope they can use this technology to continues to bring closure to unsolved cases that have been lingering, many for decades.