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Police confirm they have found who killed a Montreal teen nearly 50 years ago

Click to play video: 'Quebec teen’s murder solved nearly 50 years later'
Quebec teen’s murder solved nearly 50 years later
WATCH: A decades-long investigation has led police in Longueil, Que., to the man who killed a 16-year-old girl nearly 50 years ago. Police say DNA test results have helped them identify the man who killed Sharron Prior. Mike Armstrong reports. – May 23, 2023

After a decades-long investigation, an unsolved cold case is cracked and the family of a 16-year-old girl from Montreal who was raped and killed finally has answers.

Police in Longueuil, Que., gave a long-awaited update Tuesday into the disappearance and slaying of Sharron Prior, confirming they had finally found her killer.

The teen went missing after she set out to meet friends for pizza just a few blocks from her home in Montreal’s Pointe-St-Charles neighbourhood in March 1975. Prior never arrived at the pizzeria and her body was found four days later in a wooded area in Longueuil, on Montreal’s south shore.

Click to play video: 'Family of Montreal teen murdered in 1975 pay tribute to older sister following closure of case'
Family of Montreal teen murdered in 1975 pay tribute to older sister following closure of case

“You may never have come back to our house or Congregation Street that weekend but you have never left our hearts and you never will,” Moreen Prior, Sharron’s sister, said alongside her family Tuesday.

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“We love you Sharron and now, may you truly rest in peace.”

Earlier this month, police confirmed they had a suspect in one of Quebec’s highest-profile cold cases: Franklin Maywood Romine. The development came after DNA evidence surfaced in June 2022 — nearly 50 years after Prior’s death. Amplified DNA testing of evidence from Prior’s shirt led them closer to solving the crime by making a match to the Romine family.

Police analyzed Y chromosome DNA — passed down almost unchanged from father to son — to identify a family line, and they matched the sample to four brothers in West Virginia.

Longueuil investigators then requested the body of Romine, who died in 1982, be exhumed from a West Virginia cemetery and undergo DNA testing.

Longueuil, Que., police says DNA testing confirms Frank Romine, who died in 1982, killed Montreal teen Sharron Prior.
Longueuil, Que., police says DNA testing confirms Frank Romine, who died in 1982, killed Montreal teen Sharron Prior. Courtesy of Longueuil police

Investigators said Tuesday that DNA test results allows them to be 100 per cent certain that Romine was the killer that police had sought for nearly five decades in the Montreal teen’s murder.

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Romine’s DNA matched evidence found at the scene of Prior’s murder, police said. He also matched a physical description of the suspect provided by a witness. As well, police confirm Romine’s car was “compatible” with the tire tracks at the site where police found Prior’s body 48 years ago.

Romine, who had a long criminal record dating back to when he was a child, was in the city at the time of Prior’s death but wasn’t considered a suspect, according to police.

Click to play video: 'Family of Montreal teen murdered nearly 50 years ago says it’s ‘not a club anyone wants to belong to’'
Family of Montreal teen murdered nearly 50 years ago says it’s ‘not a club anyone wants to belong to’

On parole since 1973, Romine was facing new charges of breaking and entering and rape when he fled to Montreal, a city he had visited on at least two earlier occasions. Romine was on the lam when Prior was killed — but he was extradited back to the United States seven months later. He eventually resurfaced in Montreal and died there, but his body was buried in West Virginia.

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“Since the suspect in this file is deceased, the confirmation of identity therefore closes this cold case and will not lead to any charges in Canadian courts,” the police force said in a statement.

The slain teen’s sisters, Moreen and Doreen Prior, said it had been an “incredibly long and difficult journey” leading to this day. Their mother, who is now 85 and was in attendance at the press conference, immediately knew something was wrong just a few minutes after her eldest daughter was due home on March 29, 1975.

Yvonne Prior, centre, reacts with her daughters Moreen, left and Doreen during a press conference as police confirm the identity of the killer of the 1975 murder of her daughter Sharron on Tuesday, May 23, 2023 in Longueuil, Que. Christinne Muschi/The Canadian Press

Their big sister had “a heart of gold” and excelled in all she did, they added. Prior had dreams of becoming a veterinarian and her friends are still in contact with the family. She touched many people in her short life that was ripped away too quickly and brutally.

“The solving of Sharron’s case will never bring Sharron back but knowing that her killer is no longer on this earth and can’t kill anymore brings us to somewhat of a closure of this long chapter of our lives,” Doreen Prior told reporters.

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The family also thanked police in Longueuil for their long-term efforts, as well as the Pointe-St-Charles and online communities who rallied around them. The sisters also thanked other Quebec families navigating their own cold cases for accompanying them on much of their journey.

Longueuil police Det. Eric Racicot was in West Virginia last month as police sought a court order allowing them to exhume Romine’s body. He said finally solving Prior’s murder comes with mixed emotions, but he is grateful and proud.

“Of course, it is a relief for the family but also all the detectives who worked hard on a resolution since 1975,” Racicot said.

with files from Global News’ Gloria Henriquez and The Canadian Press

Click to play video: 'Sharron Prior’s family relieved Longueuil police solve cold case 48 years later'
Sharron Prior’s family relieved Longueuil police solve cold case 48 years later

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