New DNA technology has lead Ohio police to a serial killer in Cincinnati more than three decades after his own death, according to the Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office.
Ralph Howell of Roselawn was posthumously indicted yesterday (November 17) on charges of aggravated murder and rape, according to the prosecutor's office. He was indicted in connection with the 44-year-old cold case of University of Cincinnati student Cheryl Thompson.
Thompson went missing on March 24, 1978, according to the Ohio Attorney General's Office. At the time, news reports said she left her Wooster Pike home to meet her boyfriend. However, she never showed up. Two weeks later, an Ohio Department of Natural Resources employee found Thompson's body near a river in Loveland.
This year, a DNA sample from Thompson's body was sent to a third-party genealogy company and the results were narrowed down to a simple family tree, according to prosecutors. Some of Howell's family members agreed to undergo DNA testing, and Howell's body was exhumed this summer. The DNA recovered from his corpse matched the DNA recovered from Thompson's body.
Based on similar circumstances, Howell is believed to have been involved in the deaths of three other Ohio women between 1976 and 1978 in Hamilton and Butler counties, according to prosecutors. "There is no doubt in our mind that Ralph Howell was a serial killer," Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said (via the Cincinnati Enquirer).
Howell died in automobile crash in 1985. He was never charged in any of the cases.