2nd UC student identified as suspected serial killer’s first victim

UC student’s 1977 slaying tied to suspected serial killer
Published: Nov. 17, 2022 at 5:53 PM EST
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WEST CHESTER, Ohio (WXIX) - A family is getting a little bit of closure into the death of their loved one 45 years ago.

Nancy Ann Theobald is suspected to have been the victim of a serial killer, Ralph Howell, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters announced Thursday.

When Joseph Theobald, Nancy’s brother, heard the news, he was almost in disbelief.

“To get that call on the 45th anniversary of her abduction and murder, that we would have some closure on that day, it’s very meaningful,” Joseph described.

In 1977, Nancy was an 18-year-old University of Cincinnati student. Her brother Joseph was just 11 at the time.

She disappeared on Nov. 16, 1977, after leaving her job at the Arby’s in Clifton.

Her body was found more than a month later on Dec. 26 on Becket Road in Butler County, according to Deters.

Nancy had been strangled and raped, the prosecutor explained Thursday. Her death had similar aspects to three other women who were killed around that time, the prosecutor described Thursday.

“It was always our feeling that there was a serial killer out there that hadn’t been identified by law enforcement,” Joseph says. “When you look at the records, there’s maybe eight unsolved murders. Three of these girls had been abducted in Cincinnati and dumped in Butler County and remote areas like that.”

The three girls Joseph is referring to are the other suspected victims of Howell.

  • Victoria Hincher, 24, was found dead on Halloween 1976 on New London Road in Butler County.
  • Charmaine Stolla, 17, was found dead on March 12, 1978, off Old Colerain Pk in Hamilton County.
  • Cheryl Thompson, 19, was found dead on April 8, 1978, on the banks of the Little Miami River on East Kemper Road in Loveland.
    • Howell was posthumously indicted for her murder, Deters also announced Thursday.
Ralph Howell is suspected in three additional killings that happened in the late 1970s, Joe...
Ralph Howell is suspected in three additional killings that happened in the late 1970s, Joe Deters announced Thursday.(Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office)

The break in Nancy’s, Stolla’s, and Hincher’s cases came from the investigative work done in Thompson’s cold case, Deters explained.

Thompson’s rape kit was resubmitted in 2022 to a third-party ancestry database and gave investigators a link to Howell, according to the prosecutor.

The details in Thompson’s case were similar to those of the other three other, Deters said. Those facts were enough for Deters to say his office suspects Howell killed all four, including Nancy.

“The idea that there was somebody out there that had done this, gotten away with it, and was still roaming around and could be a threat to any other victims was very unsettling,” said Joseph. “So, to know that this person is no longer here gives us a lot of relief.”

Howell died in a 1985 car crash, according to Deters.

Joseph says the work is not yet done when it comes to his sister’s case.

He says they are still looking for that definitive piece of evidence pointing to Nancy’s killer and how it happened 45 years ago.

Joseph is optimistic Thursday’s development will prompt people who may know something to come forward.

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