Murder of Portsmouth woman remains unsolved 42 years later
by PDT Sports Writer
PDT Staff Writer
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced Thursday a new plan to focus more attention on Ohio Unsolved Homicides. The effort includes listing every Ohio cold case homicide on the Attorney General’s website and offering Attorney General Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) expert services. “This is ultimately an effort to help law enforcement and victims,” said Attorney General DeWine. “Currently, the oldest cold case homicide on the Attorney General’s website dates back to 1964. We hope to bring closure and justice to as many cases as possible so that victims and their families can have justice.”
A Portsmouth woman and her boyfriend, both bludgeoned to death in 1970 in Columbus, continues to haunt the Columbus Cold Case files.
The bodies of Mary Petry, 20, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Petry of 2201 Scioto Trail, in Portsmouth, and William Sproat, 23, of Havertown, Pa., a graduate student at The Ohio State University, were found in Sproat’s apartment in 1970.
On Friday, February 28, 1970, Sproat met Petry at the bus station downtown and drove her back to his apartment at 378 W. 8th Ave. Sproat’s roommate, Thomas McGuigan, who had left for the night, witnessed a gruesome scene around 1 o’clock the next morning. When he returned to the apartment, he discovered that Sproat and Petry had been tied up with coat hangers, beaten with a bowling ball, and stabbed to death. Sproat’s body was found in the bathroom. Sproat’s wrists were bound to his ankles behind his back with coat hangers wound so tightly police theorized pliers may have been used to tighten them. He had been stabbed about 20 times. Petry, a junior at Mt. St. Joseph’s College in Cincinnati at the time of the murders, was found semi-nude on the bed. She had been sexually assaulted. No sign of forced entry was found and the door was unlocked.
In 2008 Columbus detective Jim McCoskey went through the evidence and found DNA related to the murders.
“This was a big case. The detectives then put in hundreds of hours. They had a couple of rapists at the time running around the area,” McCoskey told the Portsmouth Daily Times in 2008.
McCoskey said he was routinely looking for cold cases when he came across the case involving the Portsmouth woman and her boyfriend.
“Occasionally I’ll just pull cases out, and in fact, I lived in a rooming house about four blocks from where the murders occurred in 1970, and I remember it vividly,” he said. “DNA hadn’t really come in until the mid- to late ’90s. So I submitted some of the physical evidence from the scene and lo and behold, I came up with DNA.”
McCoskey said he went through the physical evidence, viewing what still was available. He said all of the evidence still was there, but only certain items are worthy of being tested.
“Out of one of the articles they were able to pull up DNA,” he said.
McCoskey said the sample was submitted to the state databank, but there have been no hits on the DNA.
“Our lab submitted it. We have our own lab, and the DNA didn’t hit on anything,” he said.
McCoskey didn’t give up with no hits coming from the state databank. He submitted his evidence to Ohio Crimestoppers.
In 2009 Central Ohio Crime Stoppers posted a reward of up to $5,000 for any information received leading to the arrest and/or indictment of the persons responsible for that crime.
The Ohio Attorney General’s Ohio Unsolved Homicides webpage includes 166 cases today. And while listing a cold case is voluntary for law enforcement departments, the hope is that more departments will do that as well.
According to FBI statistics, Ohio has 5,153 unsolved homicide cases. Two of those murder mysteries are in Pike County, Jennifer Burgette and Curtis Francis, which occurred on Dec. 9, 2006, and the case of Mary Lodatto which occurred on March 7, 1991 in Jackson County.
Ohio law enforcement agencies can tap BCI&I experts to help with their unsolved homicide cases in the following ways:
In addition, the Attorney General’s Office will feature one Ohio Unsolved Homicide case each month, hoping to draw more public attention. That attention could prompt someone to come forward with information that can be steered to the BCI tip line: 855-BCI-OHIO. Currently BCI already receives daily tips about Ohio Unsolved Homicides and forwards those tips to the original investigating agency. In order to help educate the law enforcement community about this entire effort, BCI is planning Ohio Unsolved Homicides Symposiums across the state beginning in 2013.
For more information on the Ohio Attorney General’s Ohio Unsolved Homicides, go to www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov/OhioUnsolvedHomicides.
Law enforcement agencies that would like to be included in the BCI statewide database and featured on the Attorney General’s website can call BCI at 855-BCI-OHIO or email OhioUnsolvedHomicides@OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 232, or at firstname.lastname@example.org
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