Ohio Officials Believe a Guy May Have Killed 3 More in 1978: The prosecution is convinced that Ralph Howell, who passed away in 1985, was a serial killer and that he was responsible for the raping and murder of a college student in Cincinnati.
Ohio Officials Believe a Guy May Have Killed 3 More in 1978
Three adolescent girls were raped and killed in the Cincinnati region between October 1976 and April 1978. Cheryl Thompson, a UC student, left home to meet her lover at a nightclub and was found dead two weeks later.
Never-solved crimes terrified the region. DNA evidence has identified the man who raped and killed Ms. Thompson, and authorities suspect he raped and killed three other women in the 1970s. Ralph Howell, a long-haul truck driver, and Cincinnati Enquirer deliveryman were killed in an automobile accident in 1985. Prosecutors presented evidence to a grand jury on Thursday, culminating in a posthumous indictment on rape and murder charges against Thompson, 19.
Prosecutor Joseph T. Deters claimed Thursday that Ralph Howell was a serial murderer. Bill, Ms. Thompson’s retired police officer brother, feared the case would never be solved. Mr. Thompson, 68, said Friday it was all a surprise. Everyone has their theories about what occurred, and it surprised me that it was an unknown individual with no connection with Cheryl.
Mr. Deters said Ms. Thompson’s case was solved using genetic genealogy, which identifies suspects’ relatives and traces them to the suspects. The same method helped identify the Golden State Killer and other decades-old cold cases. The coroner’s office stored a rape kit when a state wildlife inspector found Ms. Thompson’s death near Loveland, Ohio, on April 8, 1978. Investigators submitted semen from the kit to a genealogy business this year, prosecutors said. Prosecutors claimed the data showed Mr. Howell’s familial tree.
Prosecutors claimed Mr. Howell was detained in 1983 after offering a lady a lift home in his newspaper delivery car. Mr. Deters claimed he told her he wanted sex and strangled her, but she fought him off and escaped. When authorities discovered the case, they contacted Mr. Howell’s family, who gave DNA tests showing that Ms. Thompson’s semen came from their close cousin, Mr. Deters said. Mr. Howell’s jawbone DNA matched Ms. Thompson’s semen DNA, Mr. Deters said.
Mr. Deters said detectives notified Ms. Thompson’s family that her killer was dead but would provide the evidence to a grand jury if they needed “additional closure.” The family accepted, and a grand jury indicted Mr. Howell for rape and murder. Prosecutors said no trial. Thompson backed charging Howell. “Knowing someone was charged with my sister’s death helped me finalize it,” said Mr. Thompson. “I didn’t care if he was dead or not.”
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“Finally,” Professor Dressler said, “in a case where they believe the deceased may have committed other crimes, they may hope that publicity of the indictment — and the fact that they didn’t drop their investigation — will inspire people to come forward who may be able to provide evidence of other crimes committed by the defendant.”
Mr. Deters said detectives suspect Mr. Howell murdered at least three additional women: Charmaine Stella, 17, found in Hamilton County on March 12, 1978; Nancy Ann Theobald, found in nearby Butler County on Dec. 26, 1977; and Victoria Hincher, 24, found on Oct. 31, 1976. He alleged all three were raped and strangled. Mr. Deters said the circumstances lead to Mr. Howell without DNA proof. Mr. Deters: “It’s the same M.O. “He kidnaps, rapes, and strangles girls.”
He invited anybody with knowledge of Mr. Howell or the murders of Mss. Stella, Theobald, and Hincher to contact the police. Mr. Deters said Howell may have additional victims.
Mr. Thompson hopes more families achieve closure like his, and he knows some will.