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How a Detective Used DNA Technology to Identify a Teenage Girl’s Killer, 50 Years Later

LONGUEUIL, QUE. – WARNING: The details in this article and videos may be disturbing to some viewers

In 1975, 16-year-old Sharron Prior was kidnapped in Montreal after leaving home to meet her friends at a local pizzeria.

Three days later, she was found in a wooded area just outside Montreal. She had been tied up, raped and beaten to death.

“Sharron was a lively little girl. The community of Pointe-Saint-Charles liked her a lot, and she had a lot of friends,” said Eric Racicot, a detective sergeant at Longueuil’s police department, in an interview with CTV W5.

Racicot took on the case in December 2021. He was the 14th investigator to try to crack the case police had been investigating for 48 years. By the time it reached his hands, 120 suspects had been identified.

Racicot was determined to solve the case with the help of advancements in DNA technology.

“The more time that passed, the more techniques and more refined that DNA collection techniques and identification recovery became,” he said.

He submitted several items of Sharron’s clothing from the crime scene, including a pair of pants to a lab that specializes in detecting DNA. That sample was then compared to samples in a genealogical database. That ultimately gave Racicot a last name for the investigation.

“Since 1975, no one had ever mentioned this name,” said Racicot. “And I thought ‘that’s why we’ve been chasing a ghost all this time.’”

He wasn’t the only one chasing a ghost — Sharron’s mom and sisters had been hunting her killer for decades, looking up names and addresses in telephone books and visiting the addresses they believed might lead them to the killer.

“It’s the fight of my life. I just want the answers. I want to know who did this,” Sharron’s mother, Yvonne Prior, told CTV W5.

Det. Racicot eventually traced the suspect’s last name to an American citizen, the late Franklin Maywood Romine of Putnam County, West Virginia. He was 28 at the time of Prior’s death and started his criminal career at the age of 11.

Racicot said Romine’s criminal record(opens in a new tab) spans from 1955 to 1974 and includes breaking and entering, grand larceny, multiple prison breaks, impaired driving, hit-and-run and rape. The life-long criminal crossed the border into Canada many times and died in 1982 in the Verdun neighborhood of Montreal at the age of 36.

Racicot remained steadfast in his mission to give Prior’s family definitive answers and requested an exhumation on Romine’s body in West Virginia.

“We hope that the DNA we collect… will allow us to prove once and for all he’s responsible for Sharron Prior’s murder,” he said.

In May 2023, Racicot watched with anticipation as his main suspect’s steel coffin was dug out from the ground. A biologist extracted five bones from which to extract DNA.

Those DNA samples were then brought to the Forensic Science Laboratory in Montreal and analyzed.

Sitting with Sharron Prior’s mom, Yvonne, and twin sisters, Moreen and Doreen, Racicot shared the news they had been waiting for for more than 40 years — they had finally found the murderer they’d been searching for.

“At 1:40pm this afternoon, I received a phone call from our biologists,” he told the women. “The profile from the bones is a full match with the one from the crime scene that belongs to the murderer. So it’s him, it’s really him without any doubt.”

Sharron’s mom, Yvonne Prior, had never given up hope that her daughter’s murderer would be found.

“Forty-eight years,” she said. “It was always on my mind. Who killed Sharron? Who killed her? They got him.”

Source : CTV