SC man arrested in 1976 murder of woman in Fairfield County

DNA helped solve the cold case

SC man arrested in 1976 murder of woman in Fairfield County
Charles Coleman, 65, of Whitmire, now faces rape and murder charges. (Source: Chester County Sheriff's Office)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - More than 40 years after a South Carolina woman was found strangled and beaten to death, DNA evidence led police to arrest a man for her rape and murder.

It was March 20, 1976 when 45-year-old Elizabeth Ann Howell Wilson disappeared from her shift at the Eureka Plant of Spring Mills in Chester.

Officials later found her body and stolen vehicle in Blair in Fairfield County. Police say she had been sexually assaulted, strangled and beaten to death.

The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) worked with authorities in Chester and Fairfield counties for years hoping to solve the case.

Recently, police say a forensics breakthrough identified a suspect through DNA.

Charles Coleman, 65, of Whitmire, now faces rape and murder charges. Agents arrested him on a warrant on Oct. 22, 2020.

“Our agents and forensics experts' work hard and are dedicated to bringing justice to those who commit crimes against our citizens,” SLED Chief Mark Keel said. “Whether the crime was recent or happened more than 40 years ago, we will not stop in trying to solve the case. I appreciate the teamwork showed by everyone in helping bring closure to the Wilson family.”

Coleman is being held in the Fairfield County Jail without bond. His first court appearance is scheduled for December 9.

SLED asks anyone who may have further information to help their investigation to call them at 803-896-2605.

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