On November 17, 2022, investigators announced that Ralph Howell was the lead suspect in a series of four murders of young women in Cincinnati in the late 1970s.
Howell was posthumously indicted by a grand jury in Hamilton County for the March 24, 1978 murder of 19-year-old Cheryl Thompson. On that evening, she disappeared on her way to Gatsby’s Disco in the Oakley neighbourhood of Cincinnati. Her car was found outside the disco. Police think that she was abducted on her way inside to meet her friends. She had been a student at the University of Cincinnati, and she planned to be a nurse. Her body was found near the Little Miami River on April 8, 1978. She had been sexually assaulted and she was killed by strangulation and blunt force trauma to her head.
A DNA sample of the suspect was developed from a sexual assault kit taken at her autopsy. There is currently no information on who conducted the FGG investigation. Howell’s body was exhumed, and his DNA was found to be a match to that of the suspect.
Authorities believe that Howell is also the lead suspect in the similar rape-murders of three other women around the same time. The remains of 24-year-old Victoria Hincher was found on October 31, 1976 on New London Road in Butler County.
The body of 18-year-old Nancy Ann Theobald was found on December 26, 1977 on Beckett Road in Butler County. She studied finance at the University of Cincinnati. She was abducted walking home from work. Her frozen body was found in a creek bed. Her hands had been bound, and she had also been raped and strangled. The suspect’s blood was found on her sweater.
17-year-old Charmaine Stolla was found on March 12, 1978 near Old Colerain Park in Hamilton County.
After these murders took place, Howell was arrested for the 1983 abduction of a fifth woman. He had picked her up in his car and he then attempted to choke her with a rope and sexually assault her, but she managed to escape. He had pled guilty to a lesser offence and had been released when he died in a car accident in 1985.
Bentley, Quinlan. “Cold Case Closed: Accused Serial Killer Tied to 4 Murders, 1 Failed Abduction.” Cincinnati Enquirer, November 17, 2022. Last modified November 18, 2022. https://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/crime/2022/11/17/deters-dna-evidence-closes-cold-case-suspected-serial-killer-charged/69657499007/.
King, Courtney, and Jared Goffinet. “UC Student’s Cold-Case Murder Tied to Suspected Serial Killer.” Fox 19 News, November 17, 2022. Accessed November 18, 2022.
Schmidt, Jessica. “Key Piece of Evidence Could Eventually Lead Investigators to Killer in Unsolved Murder of UC Student from 1977.” Fox 19 News, November 11, 2019. Accessed November 18, 2022. https://www.fox19.com/2019/11/11/key-piece-evidence-could-eventually-lead-investigators-killer-unsolved-murder-uc-student/.