West Virginia Murders
Several law enforcement agencies provide vital information and statistics on the number of murders in West Virginia by year. For example, the Federal Bureau of Investigation develops and publishes a complete uniform crime report each year that gives extensive information on the various types of crime, crime rates, and locations in most cities and counties across the country. Another excellent example is Project: Cold Case, which not only maintains a public database of almost 25,000 unresolved cases, but also offers statistics and other information on the number of unsolved homicides throughout the United States as well as the homicide clearance rate in each state. According to the Cold case Homicide Statistics provided by The Murder Accountability Project in collaboration with Project: Cold Case, there were 4,281 murders in West Virginia between 1980 and 2019. Furthermore, almost 958 of those homicides in West Virginia remain unsolved today, despite the fact that around 3,863 murders from the original total were solved during that time span.
Some of the more well known unsolved murders in northern West Virginia, include the 1977 murder of Roberta Elam, the 1990 murder of Fame Cooper, the 1995 murder of Barbara Ann Barnes, the 2004 death of an unnamed newborn “”Baby Christian,”” and the 1950 murder of “”Redhead”” Jane Doe. The 1986 murder of Theresa Ann Woods, the 1963 murder of Irene Wilson, the 1982 murder of LaRoy Earl Gorman, and the 2008 murder of Judith Lynn Petty are among the unsolved central West Virginia murders, in addition to the 1945 kidnapping and mysterious disappearance of the Sodder Children.
In addition, unsolved murders in Charleston, West Virginia include the 1990 murder of Lynn Priestly, the 1979 murder of John “”Jay”” Farley, and the 2012 murder of Robert “”Bob”” Snow, as well as the 1979 disappearance of Mazie Mae Sigmon-Palmer, whose disappearance is linked to Jay Farley’s murder. Finally, one of the unsolved murders in Kanawha County, West Virginia include the 2004 murder of Cleo Burdette, in addition to Melanie Metheny’s 2006 disappearance, and Samuel “”Dickie”” Riser’s 2010 disappearance.
Unsolved West Virginia Murders
Murder statistics can be obtained through virtually any police department website. Then you can explore a comprehensive list of the quantity of unsolved homicides in each state on the Project: Cold Case website in addition to each state’s homicide clearance rate. To recap, according to Project: Cold Case, there are now around 958 unsolved murders in West Virginia, a figure that has declined drastically as law enforcement agencies continue to investigate these unsolved crimes. You can find more information on West Virginia’s unsolved homocides by browsing differernt local police departments websites.
Among the numerous unsolved murders in northern West Virginia, some notable cases listed on various law enforcement websites are: the 1977 murder of Roberta Elam, the 1990 murder of Fame Cooper, the 1995 murder of Barbara Ann Barnes, the 2004 murder of unidentified newborn “Baby Christian,” and the 1950 murder of the “Redhead” Jane Doe. Unsolved murders in Charleston, West Virginia, include the 1990 murder of Lynn Priestly, the 1979 murder of John “Jay” Farley, and the 2012 murder of Robert “Bob” Snow, as well as the 1979 disappearance of Mazie Mae Sigmon-Palmer, whose disappearance is linked to Jay Farley’s murder. Other unsolved murders in West Virginia featured in cold case lists are the many east West Virginia unsolved murders. These include the 1969 murder of Amelia Wilson, the 1980 double-murder of Vicki Durian and Nancy Santomero, and the 2016 murder of Ivan “Vanya” Perlis, as well as the disappearances of Lisa Crouse in 1997 and Morten Aigeltinger in 2015.
More than 200,000 unsolved cases have gone cold since 1980, and murder clearance rates continue to drop. With equity for BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and other underserved victims not prioritized in the true crime community—together we can do better.
Famous West Virginia Murders
When thinking about famous West Virginia murders, not many notable names come to mind. Typically, the names of the murders in West Virginia can be found within the different law enforcement organization webpages while the more notorious West Virginia criminals have become household names. Some of the more popular West Virginia murders include: the 1977 murder of Roberta Elam, the 1963 murder of Irene Wilson, the 1980 double-murder of Vicki Durian and Nancy Santomero, and the 2005 “Prom Night Homicides” of Eddrick Clark, Megan Poston, Michael Dillon, and Ward are among the most infamous West Virginia murders. Some other well known unsolved disappearances in West Virginia include Annita Price’s 1974 disappearance, the Sodder children’s 1945 abduction and alleged kidnapping, Melanie Metheny’s 2006 disappearance, and Mazie Mae Sigmon-1979 Palmer’s disappearance.
Homicide Rate in West Virginia
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s 2019 Uniform Crime Report (UCR), the violent crime rate in West Virginia was about 316.6 per 100,000 people. In a nutshell, this indicates that roughly 317 West Virginia residents per 100,000 were directly affected by violent crime in 2019. According to the same study, the homicide rate in West Virginia in 2019 was 4.4 per 100,000 inhabitants. This indicates that around 4-5 persons per 100,000 West Virginia residents were killed in 2019.
Charleston, West Virginia’s capital, has a population of approximately 46,000 people. In 2018, the violent crime rate in Charleston, West Virginia was about 697.28 per 100,000 inhabitants, whereas the Charleston murder rate was 21.07 per 100,000 residents. Although there is no way to tell how many murders occurred in West Virginia in 2021 or how many murders occurred in Charleston, West Virginia in 2021, we do know that based on archival data, the homicide rate in both appears to be growing year after year.
Kanawha County Murders
Kanawha County in West Virginia now has a population of approximately 334,000 people. Although we do not know how many Kanawha County murders have taken place in previous years, we do know that there were 2 murders in 2017 and 10 in 2019, suggesting that, based on the limited information accessible at a glance, the number of murders in Kanawha County, West Virginia is increasing by the year. In some murder cases, detectives are able to collect enough evidence from Kanawha County murders to charge someone with the crime and bring them to trial. Evidence that is often included in Kanawha County homicide trials is completely dependent on the crime itself. For example, evidence can range from blood, saliva, semen, skin cells, or other DNA evidence, to cell phone pings, to gunpowder residue, and most often include Kanawha County murders crime scene photos, to show the jury the environment surrounding the crime as well as show the potential ferocity of the crime.
Charleston, West Virginia Murders
Because of its size and population, murders in Charleston, West Virginia occur much more frequently than homicides within other West Virginia cities. Many of the recent and long-ago murders in Charleston, West Virginia, have been solved, and police continue to look into the unresolved cases. Murders that took place in Charleston, are often topics of discussion among popular social media sites such as Reddit, Websleuths, and Facebook, where users gather to speculate, theorize, and share detailed information about the case in question. Specifically sharing information about Charleston murders, homicide crime scene photos, and autopsy photos, which are almost never even released to the general public. In recent years, significant advances in DNA technology have resulted in the resolution of hundreds,- if not thousands- of decades-old cold cases, and West Virginia is no exception. The 1981 murder of Cynthia Miller is an example of how Charleston murders DNA, as well as DNA from crimes in other regions of West Virginia, was utilized to solve or provide new information to cold cases.
West Virginia Serial Killers
If you love true crime, serial killers may spark your interest. You’ve almost definitely came across one of West Virginia serial murderers without even noticing it espeically if you’ve glanced through any kind of serial killer list. Though there aren’t many West Virginia serial killers as one might think, there are some notorious West Virginia serial killers to keep on your radar. One of the more famous West Virginia serial killers, who isn’t a serial killer by criteria but certainly comparable West Virginia killer is Harry Powers, popularly known as “The West Virginia Bluebeard,” who killed 5+ persons in Quiet Dell, West Virginia in July 1931.
Crimes in West Virginia
Project: Cold Case, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and The Murder Accountability Project are useful tools for learning more about crimes that took place in West Virginia, especially West Virginia crime data. The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Report, in particular, is a valuable tool for determining what sorts of crime in West Virginia is most common, as well as disclosing the crime data for each area within the state.
For context, West Virginia law enforcement has made great strides in recent years in terms of the amount of West Virginia homicides and true crime stories in West Virginia. From 1980 to 2019, there were about 10,409 murders in West Virginia. Since then, about 7,472 of these cases have been settled, leaving law enforcement with approximately 2,837 unresolved homicides in West Virginia. This progress has been made possible by improvements in DNA and forensic technology, as well as law enforcement officials’ devotion and patience, especially when presented with the most difficult cold cases. Finally, investigators from various investigative and law enforcement agencies around the state will continue to investigate the remaining unsolved cases until all of West Virginia’s true crimes are solved.