37 Year Old Cold Case Closer to Being Solved - WTRF 7 News Sports Weather - Wheeling Steubenville

37 Year Old Cold Case Closer to Being Solved

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It was the case that will always stand out in the hearts of Wheeling residents.

37 years ago on June 13, Sister Roberta Elam was found strangled at Mt. St. Joseph.  Despite all that time, however, the case is closer than ever to being solved.

Bright and outgoing, she wrote poetry, had a masters degree, and drove an orange sports car.

"She was very vibrant, she liked to jog. She ran almost everyday," said Lieutenant Joe Cuchta of Ohio County Sheriff Department.

The 26 year old had an apartment in Wheeling, but was on a silent retreat at Mt. St. Joseph on June 13, 1977.

"The last that anyone saw her, she walked through the kitchen, she picked up an apple and was going to go out to the field to read or meditate," Cuchta said.

That was at 10:30 A.M. At 2 p.m., the caretaker found her raped and strangled. Her bench was overturned and her bookbag was on the ground. Since then, investigators have eliminated more than 40 suspects, from teens through 90-year-olds, from priests to golfers, from Oglebay Park to Germany.

Psychics called in tips such as "the killer lived along a windy road near a church."

There were composite sketches of a mystery man. Authorities looked at 5 similar stranglings in Pennsylvania. Someone remembered a car in a pull-off near Mt. St. Joseph that day, which is described as a large GM with bumper stickers and had a small dog jumping around inside.

Dozens of people called in claiming to know who that could be.

What really injected new life into this old case was the advent of DNA. Now, detectives believe it could be solved.

"Absolutely, that would be amazing thing to solve. It just takes the one break. That's the thing, to just keep chipping away at it and keep vigilant and hopefully it'll come together," Cuchta said.

It has never dimmed in the hearts of the community either.

"It's absolutely tragic and you think you're in a safe place, you're in a comfortable place and he next thing you know, you're a victim and and you're dead. To me, I can't think of anything worse," said former journalist Frank O'Brien.

Anyone with information is urged call the Ohio County Sheriff's Department.