New development in 27-year-old murder of Franklin Township teen
By Nic Corbett/For The Star-Ledger
September 30, 2009, 7:01PM
SOMERVILLE -- A breakthrough may be brewing in a decades-old cold case, the 1982 slaying of a 15-year-old Franklin Township girl who disappeared from her home one fall evening after getting a mysterious phone call.
Twenty-seven years later, a hearing concerning new evidence in the cold case was scheduled to be heard today at the Somerset County Courthouse in Somerville. But Judge Paul Armstrong didn’t show up, possibly due to some mix-up. His clerk said the judge was in New Brunswick and wouldn’t return.
According to Sharon Ransavage, a Flemington defense attorney who represents a potential suspect in the case, the hearing was about obtaining a DNA sample and a motion to hold her client in “investigative” custody. She would not name her client, whom she called “the defendant,” but said holding someone in investigative custody does not require police to have a standard as high as probable cause.
On Oct. 26, 1982, Sharon Thor had hurried out of her home after a brief conversation with someone she appeared pleasantly surprised to hear from, according to her mother. She was supposed to return home within 15 minutes to leave for her twice-weekly ballet dance lesson. The last time Thor was seen, she was leaving in a car with a loud muffler driven by a white man with dark hair.
She was found dead three days later in a wooded area off John E. Busch Avenue, a quarter-mile away. An autopsy determined she had been beaten to death about an hour after she left home.
Before leaving the courthouse today, the defense attorney met with Assistant Prosecutor Tim Van Hise privately. Van Hise declined to comment. Nor would he say when the hearing would be re-scheduled.
The Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office started a cold case squad seven and a half years ago to re-examine four unsolved killings, including that of Thor, according to a 2003 story in the New Jersey Lawyer.
“In the Thor case,” Somerset County Prosecutor Wayne J. Forrest was quoted then as saying, “there were things the assailant may have been grabbing hard, so we might be able to find DNA on it.”
According to a Star-Ledger story that ran a week after her death, detectives identified the weapons used to bludgeon the teen: a bloodied cinder block and a piece of two-by-four lumber found near her body.