Prosecutor: DNA links now-dead man to 1978 slaying in Ohio

Nov 21, 2022, 12:45 PM | Updated: 1:13 pm

CINCINNATI (AP) — DNA technology has been used to link the rape and murder of a University of Cincinnati student more than four decades ago to a now-deceased man who authorities suspect may also have been responsible for three other murders in Ohio, prosecutors said.

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph Deters last week announced a posthumous indictment of Ralph Howell, who died in a 1985 auto accident, on aggravated murder and rape charges in the murder of 19-year-old Cheryl Thompson.

“I have prosecuted multiple serial killers in my time as prosecutor,” Deters said in a statement. “My office firmly believes he is another.”

Thompson went missing in March 1978 after leaving her home to meet her boyfriend at a bar in Oakley, prosecutors said. About two weeks later, a state natural resources officer found her body along the bank of the Little Miami River. Authorities said she had been raped and she died of asphyxia caused by strangulation.

This year, a DNA sample taken from Thompson’s body at the time of the crime was sent to a third-party genealogy company that narrowed the search to a specific family tree that included Howell, and further investigation revealed that he had been arrested in 1983 on an abduction charge.

In that incident, Howell picked a woman up on the side of the road and offered to drive her home, then put a rope around her neck and began to strangle her, prosecutors said. She was able to escape. Court records indicate that Howell pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of unlawful restraint, a misdemeanor, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

Family members of Howell who submitted DNA samples were excluded as suspects in Thompson’s murder, but the tests indicated that the suspect was a close family relative. Ralph Howell’s body was exhumed and a DNA sample taken that proved to be a match to the DNA found on Thompson’s body, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said Howell is suspected in the deaths of three other women killed in Hamilton and Butler counties between 1976 and 1978 that display similar circumstances:

— Charmaine Stolla, 17, was last seen in February 1978 in Cincinnati. Her body was found the following month off Old Colerain Pike.

— Nancy Ann Theobald, 18, was last seen in November 1977 leaving the Clifton restaurant where she worked. Her body was found the day after Christmas in Butler County.

— Victoria Hincher, 24, was last seen leaving her home in October 1976. Her body was found in Butler County a week and a half later.

All three women were strangled and raped, but investigators do not have DNA from any of those killings, Deters said.

Prosecutors said Howell was employed as a delivery driver for the Cincinnati Enquirer and was an over-the-road truck driver, and “his possible victims are not necessarily limited to this geographic region.” Anyone with information about Howell or a similar unsolved homicide was asked to call investigators.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Police: Georgia teen shot while campaigning for Sen. Warnock

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — A teenager campaigning in a neighborhood for U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia was shot and wounded on the doorstep of a Savannah home, according to police. “At this point, there is no indication the shooting was politically motivated,” Savannah police said in a statement Friday. The 15-year-old boy was out […]
10 hours ago
FILE An oil tanker is moored at the Sheskharis complex, part of Chernomortransneft JSC, a subsidiar...
Associated Press

EU tentatively backs $60-per-barrel price cap on Russian oil

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union tentatively agreed to a $60-per-barrel price cap on Russian oil, a key step as Western sanctions aim to reorder the global oil market to prevent price spikes and starve President Vladimir Putin of funding for his war in Ukraine. After a last-minute flurry of negotiations, the EU presidency, held […]
10 hours ago
FILE - Julia Reichert, left, and Steven Bognar accept the award for best documentary feature for "A...
Associated Press

Julia Reichert, Oscar-winning documentarian, dies at 76

Julia Reichert, the Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker behind “American Factory” whose films explored themes of race, class and gender, often in the Midwest, has died. She was 76. She died Thursday night in Ohio from cancer, her family said Friday through a representative. She was diagnosed with stage four urothelial cancer in April 2018. Often called […]
10 hours ago
President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron toast during a State Dinner on the South L...
Associated Press

French President visits New Orleans, Louisiana

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron will head to Louisiana on Friday to celebrate longstanding cultural ties and to discuss energy policy. Macron’s office said he will meet with political leaders and is scheduled to see the historic French Quarter, the heart of the city. The Advocate reported that the visit will […]
10 hours ago
FILE - Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper watches during warm ups before an NFL football game bet...
Associated Press

Panthers owner David Tepper scrutinized in criminal probe

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper and his real estate company are the focus of a criminal investigation to see if they misused any public money in their failed effort to build a practice facility for the NFL team. The York County Sheriff’s Office said state agents and local prosecutors are aiding […]
10 hours ago
Associated Press

Writers: Russian attacks seek ‘erasure’ of Ukrainian culture

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian troops in Ukraine are deliberately attacking the country’s museums, libraries and other cultural institutions, according to a report issued Friday by the U.S. and Ukrainian chapters of the international writers’ organization PEN. “Culture is not collateral damage in the war against Ukraine; it’s a target, a central pillar of Russian […]
10 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Desert Institute for Spine Care photo)...

Why DISC is world renowned for back and neck pain treatments

Fifty percent of Americans and 90% of people at least 50 years old have some level of degenerative disc disease.
(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.

Key dates for Arizona sports fans to look forward to this fall

Fall brings new beginnings in different ways for Arizona’s professional sports teams like the Cardinals and Coyotes.
Prosecutor: DNA links now-dead man to 1978 slaying in Ohio