DNA Testing Leads To Arrest In 1976 Chester County Cold Case

CHESTER COUNTY, S.C. (CN2 NEWS) — A cold case out of Chester County from 44 years ago is coming to a close.

Last week, SLED agents made an arrest in the 1976 murder of Elizabeth Ann Howell Wilson.

Wilson disappeared after she left her shift at the former Eureka plant in Chester in March of 1976.

“Growing up in Chester, it was always something that I’ve heard my family talk about, the community, it was one of those stories that I became interested in due to just being around Chester,” Chester County Sheriff Max Dorsey said. “It was one of those unsolved cases that as I became more involved in law enforcement, it was something that was always talked about.”

Authorities say she was taken 20 miles from the plant and found sexually assaulted, beaten and strangled in a rural area in Fairfield County.

After 44 years, 65-year-old Charles Coleman was charged with murder and rape.

“We had a lot of evidence, but back in 1976, there was no such thing as DNA at that time, but we had evidence in the evidence room, and we did send it to SLED, but unfortunately at the time we did not get a hit, because there was no record and this fellow got in trouble again later on and that’s how it come back up,” former Chester County Sheriff, Richard Smith, said.

Coleman was arrested on a recent charge that’s when SLED developed a DNA profile from evidence leading them to identify him as the suspect in Wilson’s death.

“They were able to further that from a CODUS hit, which is the suspect submitted some DNA several months ago and that DNA hit led to probable cause that led to his arrest,” Dorsey said. “We are proud that we were able to bring some kind of finality to that investigation and for the family, that’s the most important.”

Dorsey says thanks to evolving technology and science there is always hope that current cold cases can be cracked.

“SLED is building a state-of-the-art lab, forensics lab right now and it will be completed soon, and so the men and women that work in that agency, that work, they are scientists, they are not just law enforcement offers, they are scientists who are extremely smart, and talented and gifted, and so I can only imagine what that agency is going to do to bring more cold cases to some close in the future,” Dorsey said.

Dorsey says this is one of the oldest cold cases in Chester County. We’re told Mrs. Wilson was a highly respected and well-known lady in the community. Dorsey says he has an obligation to bring justice to Wilson and her family and all of the department’s crime victims.

For now, Dorsey says he’s hoping for a successful prosecution and making more headway on the investigation.

A court date has not yet been set. The sheriff is asking for those who worked at the Eureka Plant in 1976 or knew Wilson, to contact them.

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