DNA sample after gun charge led to 1976 SC murder arrest
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A DNA sample taken from a South Carolina man after his arrest for pointing a gun while drunk has cracked a long-cold case, identifying him as the lead suspect in the slaying of a woman four decades ago, according to documents.
Charles Ugvine Coleman, 65, was arrested last week and charged with murder and rape in the killing of Elizabeth Ann Howell Wilson, who disappeared after her shift at a textile mill on March 20, 1976, officials said.
The break in the case happened April 27, when a man called police to say someone who gave him $20 to buy crack cocaine fired a rifle at him when he failed to deliver the drugs or refund the money several hours later, according to a Union County Sheriff’s Office report.
A deputy found Coleman at a nearby store, where he said he thought the man with his $20 had a gun, so he drove away and only fired several shots in the air to scare the other man when he was far enough away to make sure he missed him, according to the report obtained by The Associated Press.
Deputies arrested Coleman. They also arrested the other man, charging him with breach of trust for taking the $20 and not returning it.
South Carolina law required Coleman’s DNA be collected and sent to state officials after his arrest in April, because pointing and presenting a firearm is a felony punishable by at least five years in prison if convicted at trial. He was also charged with using a firearm while under the influence.
Coleman pleaded guilty in September and was sentenced to five years in prison, with the sentence suspended if he successfully completed 2 1/2 years of probation.
Then, the DNA results came back, linking him to evidence found after Wilson’s body and vehicle were discovered in Fairfield County, The Herald of Rock Hill reported, citing court documents and police.
Wilson worked at a mill in nearby Chester County.
Now Coleman could get a life sentence if convicted in the murder case.
Coleman’s lawyer, public defender Mike Lifsey, said his office plans its own investigation into the case and Coleman is presumed innocent.
Coleman has convictions dating back to 1975, according to records. Records show that in 1977, Coleman was sentenced to 12 years in prison for Chester County convictions for assault and battery with intent to kill, housebreaking and larceny.
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