Elizabeth Ann Wilson went missing from work in 1976 and was found later in a stolen car
On March 20, 1976, Elizabeth Ann Wilson went missing from her place of work mid-shift. The forty-five-year-old mother was working an overnight night shift as a spinner at a textiles factory in Chester, South Carolina.
She was halfway through her shift and last seen at the cafeteria around 3:45 AM. A coworker said she saw her resume work around 4 AM and didn’t notice anything unusual.
Not long later, a security guard thought he saw Elizabeth Ann in a vehicle, a green and white Chevrolet belonging to a manager of the plant, and allowed the vehicle out of the facility. This wasn’t unusual; the manager had been known to drive sick employees or, if they had an emergency, either take people home or to the hospital.
However, it hadn’t been the manager driving. When he finished his shift, he noticed his car missing and reported it as stolen to the police. At that time, no one had noticed Elizabeth Ann was missing.
Around 7 AM, a motorist noticed an abandoned vehicle. He saw what he believed to be a body under the car and went straight to the home of a nearby Sheriff’s Deputy. They returned to the vehicle and confirmed it was a deceased, half-clothed woman underneath. Initially, it had been thought she had been hit by a car, but an autopsy revealed she had been strangled to death, severely beaten, and sexually assaulted.
It had been the second vicious attack in the area that week, and initially, there was concern that the crimes had been the work of a serial predator. Still, it was later determined the attacks were either a coincidence or a copycat. Elizabeth Ann was confirmed as the victim, but no one could figure out what had happened.
The security guard hadn’t gotten a good look at the driver the night she had gone missing. There had been no apparent signs of distress. Law enforcement had interviewed several suspects, but all were cleared. She had been a widow, her husband had died a little before her, and her two daughters were grown, married, and had their own families. The state offered a $5000 reward for any information that led to an arrest, but nothing solid came of it.
DNA found at the scene was input into federal and state databases, and nothing came of it for years, until 2020, when they finally got a match from a recently convicted felon.
Charles Ugvine Coleman, now sixty-six years old, had been convicted of pointing and threatening a weapon. He was required to submit DNA at the time of his arrest, which led to the murder in 1976. Coleman had an extensive criminal history, including a twelve-year prison sentence for assault and battery in 1977. His other convictions were assault and battery with intent to kill, theft, and other minor felonies.
He was charged with the murder of Elizabeth Ann Howell Wilson in 2020, and in 2022 he entered an Alfred Plea, meaning he would not accept guilt, but acknowledged there was sufficient evidence to convict him and would accept the punishment. South Carolina Law stated that he needed to be sentenced based on the laws in 1976, which gave him the option to be eligible for parole in nine years. The sexual assault charges were dropped as part of the plea arrangement.
He has already served sixteen months and will be eligible for parole in 2029. Wilson’s daughter spoke after the trial, expressing relief that there was some justice in her mother’s brutal murder.
Sources:https://www.fox46.com/news/u-s/south-carolina/trial-ends-early-for-man-sentenced-in-1976-rape-and-murder-of-chester-woman/ https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8872457/Man-arrested-1976-slaying-South-Carolina.html https://www.courttv.com/news/south-carolina-man-gets-life-for-1976-cold-case-killing/