Man arrested in 1976 cold case slaying in South Carolina

Officials said a recent forensics "breakthrough" led police to the suspect, 44 years later

By Andrew Dys
The Herald (Rock Hill, S.C.)

FAIRFIELD COUNTY, S.C. — In 1976, Ann Wilson of Chester was found raped and killed in Fairfield County, just south of the Chester County line.

The case was never solved.

Until now.

Forty-four years later, South Carolina police say they have arrested a Union County man in connection with the crimes after DNA linked the suspect to the victim.

Charles Ugvine Coleman, 65, was arrested Thursday and charged with murder and rape, said Tommy Crosby, spokesman for the State Law Enforcement Division.

Coleman was booked into the Fairfield County jail, Crosby said.

Wilson went missing after her shift at the Eureka textile mill in Chester on March 20, 1976, officials said. Her body and vehicle were later found in the Fairfield County community of Blair, just south of the Chester County line.

Wilson had been strangled, sexually assaulted, and beaten to death, Crosby said.

It's unknown what relationship, if any, there was between the suspect and the victim, Cosby said.

Crosby and SLED Chief Mark Keel said a recent forensics "breakthrough" led police to Coleman.

The Chester County Sheriff's Office, Fairfield County Sheriff's Office, and others worked the case with SLED, Keel said.

"Our Agents and forensics experts work hard and are dedicated to bringing justice to those who commit crimes against our citizens," Keel said in a statement. " 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."

Chester County Sheriff Max Dorsey said after the arrest that the case's old age did not deter his detectives, Fairfield deputies, and SLED from seeking justice for Wilson's family. SLED's expertise in DNA and other forensics proved invaluable, Dorsey said.

"We would like to thank SLED for their invaluable assistance in solving this case," Dorsey told The Herald. "Their investigative and forensic resources were absolutely essential... It is our duty to crime victims and their families, and to all citizens of Chester County."

Case could be death penalty

Coleman could face the death penalty under South Carolina law. Prosecutors can seek the death penalty when there are aggravating factors. In the Wilson death, Coleman also is accused of rape, which is an aggravating factor under state law.

Murder carries a mandatory sentence of 30 years to life for a conviction in South Carolina. Rape carries a sentence of up to 30 years. Sixth Circuit Solicitor Randy Newman, the top prosecutor for Chester and Fairfield counties, has not said he will seek the death penalty. In a statement to The Herald, he praised the efforts of law enforcement.

"So many officers have worked on this case through the years, we would like to thank all of those officers for their hard work," Newman said. "I hope this sends a message, that we never forget and we don't give up. Tonight we are one step closer to getting some long over due closure for the family of Ms. Wilson."

Suspect's criminal history

Coleman is currently on 30 months probation for April 2020 convictions in Union County, according to SLED and South Carolina court records.

Coleman was convicted in Union County in April on charges of use of a firearm while under the influence of alcohol, and pointing and presenting a firearm, according to SLED records. In those cases a seven-year prison sentence was suspended on service of probation, records show.

Coleman has convictions dating back to 1975, according to records. 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, records show.

(c)2020 The Herald (Rock Hill, S.C.)

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