WV WV - Lynn Priestly, 34, Charleston, 21 March 1990

Discussion in 'Cold Cases' started by Kanawha City Frank, Feb 25, 2013.

  1. Kanawha City Frank

    Kanawha City Frank New Member

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    Lynn Priestly was a beautiful 34-year-old professional woman who served as the Assistant Director of the Charleston Urban Renewal Authority. She was found strangled on the bank of the Kanawha River east of Marmet on March 21, 1990.

    What is known is that Priestly and her then boyfriend, Tom White, had had a very public--and loud--argument earlier that evening that was heard by several witnesses. According to the CPD, the argument "escalated into a physical altercation." Though questioned, White was never charged.

    I have made a formal Freedom of Information request to view the open police file on the Priestly murder through Major Jason Beckett at CPD. I will report my findings here, as this case may be included in my article "Capital Crimes."
     
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  3. believe09

    believe09 Active Member

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    Have you had any reaction on your FOIA request? I am also interested to hear what her family and Tom's family believe happened that evening.
     
  4. believe09

    believe09 Active Member

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  5. shadowangel

    shadowangel Black cats consider me unlucky.

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    In April of 2010, 62 year-old Kathy Goble disappeared from Charleston. In April of 2012, her remains were found at the home of 60 year-old Charles Eugene March. He has subsequently been found guilty of her murder.

    Some similarities--- Goble and March worked at Kelly's Men Shop in Charleston, about 1/2 to 3/4 mile from the Town Center where Lynn was last seen.
    Priestly's body was found in nearby Chesapeake-- March lived in Chesapeake (this is where Goble's remains were discovered). According to a neighbor, he had known March for some 27 years, placing March there when Priestly disappeared.
    Both Goble and Priestly had been strangled to death (Goble was later dismembered and buried on March's property).

    Looking at the CPD's cold case FB page, I now see a few others in the area have made this connection as well. Its unknown if LE has looked into it whatsoever.

    This is the only article I've come up with so far...
    http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=oqVDAAAAIBAJ&sjid=5q4MAAAAIBAJ&pg=1004,4536872&dq=lynn-priestly&hl=en
     
  6. believe09

    believe09 Active Member

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    Thanks, shadowangel!!! I would love to know what LE thinks. That is a really interesting twist.

    I didnt realize that she was naked and dumped in the river.

    (I edited my above post with a working link to the CPCC facebook page.)
     
  7. shadowangel

    shadowangel Black cats consider me unlucky.

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    It's my understanding she was found beside the river, but the few articles found so far are a little ambiguous. It's not clearly stated if she was on the bank or in the water.
     
  8. believe09

    believe09 Active Member

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    I wonder if her clothing was ever found?
     
  9. shadowangel

    shadowangel Black cats consider me unlucky.

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    Lets pile on a few more coincidences, shall we?

    In July of 2006, then 21 year-old Melanie Metheny dropped her kids off at daycare in Belle WV. She was never seen again. Her van was later located in Charleston.

    Belle and Chesapeake are basically across from each other on the Kanawha River. The location where Metheny's van was located is a little over a 1/2 mile from the Kelly Mens Clothes store.
     
  10. Kanawha City Frank

    Kanawha City Frank New Member

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    Great stuff! I'll tell you what Major Beckett and Captain Hill think: the boyfriend.

    Now, ask yourself a couple of questions:

    (1) Why was she nude? (EVIDENCE ON CLOTHING?)
    (2) Was there any evidence of sexual assault on victim? It would not be unusual for the BF's semen to be inside victim. Was there outher biological evidence?

    My request for the records has been processed and I will post my findings here when I have them.
     
  11. believe09

    believe09 Active Member

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    But was Lynn's clothing ever found? It might be hold back information. I wonder if there is a rape kit any where that was processed for her?
     
  12. Kanawha City Frank

    Kanawha City Frank New Member

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    Update:

    Due to the fact that I am a complete idiot when it comes to computers, my request was not received by Major Beckett until just now. I was on the phone with him and he had not received the request because I left a "t" off his name on the email address. My bad!

    But he has it now, and while I am at the Kanawha County Courthouse tomorrow, I'll stop by his office at CPD with a hard-copy request for records. I'm also looking into the Kanawha County SO reports on the crime. I do not know if there are any, but she was found outside the city of Charleston, so I suspect the KCSO was first on scene, and there are indeed case files.

    The CPD is vitally interested in clearing cold cases.

    I told Major Beckett about the responses to this thread and will forward this link to his office.

    Thank you again for responding.

    Frank
     
  13. shadowangel

    shadowangel Black cats consider me unlucky.

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    The boyfriend in Lynn's case is the obvious first choice, and that's the primary reason I'd look elsewhere. I'm quite sure LE took the guy's life apart and if they couldn't find enough to get an indictment...

    Besides, to me it just doesn't feel right. (That's the great thing about WS, we can play our feelings just like LE does the evidence). If it had been the boyfriend, I'd expect her to have been beaten fairly severely, and that's not mentioned (and that's the kind of detail the media would love to pass on). And, regardless of his anger, I don't see him leaving her nude where she could be easily found. An abusive boyfriend would consider Lynn his property, not to be "shared" with anyone else. On the other hand, if the idea was to shame her-- The way she was dumped still doesn't seem to fit.

    The scenario as I see it... Lynn was distraught from the earlier fight with the boyfriend. She was out, on her own, and might have been a little more vulnerable to the approach of a seemingly friendly face than she otherwise would have. She was looking for a little companionship, some understanding, and the person she had the misfortune to run into had other plans. Its possible that things did progress to a point, where at Lynn said stop. Her attacker then let his emotions get the best of him. Strangulation is more an act of passion, of the moment, than something planned. When her attacker realized what he had done, he disposed of her clothes- maybe thinking evidence, maybe out of his own shame of what he had done- Then got rid of her body in a place he considered somewhat secluded so that he could get away but Lynn would still be found.

    That's all speculation on my part of course. What struck me about the death of Kathy Goble is that this could be a similar scenario. She was attacked by someone she had worked with for about ten years, but he (March) could have believed he saw a change in her view of him. Taking action on her perceived feelings for him, Kathy rebuffed him and paid for it with her life. By that time, March had had time to work on his method of disposal.
     
  14. Kanawha City Frank

    Kanawha City Frank New Member

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    Excellent insight in paragraph two!

    I will definitely share that with the case worker. The whole scenario you mention feels good to a historian. I wish I were more on your all's level here, and I hope to get there.
     
  15. Kanawha City Frank

    Kanawha City Frank New Member

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    I visited the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office in Charleston yesterday and spoke off the record to one of the Patrol Division Officers who first saw the dump site where Lynn Priestley’s body was found near the city limits of Chesapeake (east of Marmet) some ten miles from where she went missing on the night of March 21, 1990.

    The officer asked that I not use his name and I will honor that request.
    He told me that the body was nude, face down within ten feet or so of the Kanawha River itself. There was some blood evidence found near the body. It is his belief that the blood came from when the body was thrown over the river bank since there was “really no evidence of a beating or any sort of knife type wounds on the body.” The area where she was dumped is overgrown with weeds and not immediately visible from the top of the river bank. It is also rocky and trash strewn. This deputy believes she was killed elsewhere, stripped of her clothing (which has never been found) and thrown over the bank. Shoe impressions were taken from the area at the top of the bank. The medical examiner stated she was strangled within hours of her disappearance. A rape kit was used and the samples sent for analysis. The results of those swabs has not been publically revealed and Major Beckett at CPD is discussing with the City Attorney whether he can now release that information.

    The following is a verbatim account pulled from the Charleston Daily Mail newspaper of the first notice of Lynn Priestley’s disappearance. It was written by staff reporter Frank Hutchins and appeared in the March 22, 1990 issue. I am attempting to locate Mr. Hutchins.


    City woman’s parents ‘just hope and pray’​

    By Frank Hutchins
    © The Charleston Daily Mail 3-22-90

    The parents of a woman missing since Friday night tense up each time the telephone rings in their Kanawha City home.

    “Every time it rings, my heart jumps,” said Blanche Priestley. “I think that maybe if she’s been held she’s gotten lose.”

    But the police said today there is no word on the whereabouts of 34-year-old Lynn Priestley who disappeared about 11 p.m. Friday after leaving the Tidewater restaurant in the Charleston town Center.

    Sgt. Dallas Staples of the Charleston Police Department said the case has been assigned high-priority, with all detectives working in some capacity on the investigation.

    A search was expected to begin at about noon today along the Kanawha River with dogs from West Virginia K-9 Search and Rescue Inc. Staples said.

    “They’re going to bring some dogs in and do a water search,” he said. “That service is available and that’s something we’ll be doing to leave no stones unturned.”

    Staples said there was no evidence a body was in the water, but that the search in the downtown area was initiated Because that’s where Lynn was last seen.
    Lynn, the assistant director of the Charleston Urban Renewal Authority, was reported missing Saturday afternoon.

    “Her boyfriend called about quarter till 10 and wanted to know if she was here,” said Mrs. Priestley. “So then I kept calling and got concerned.”
    Lynn’s father, Charles, drove to her apartment after she failed to answer the telephone.

    “Her house was the same as she left it the night before,” Mrs. Priestley said. “Then I started getting worried.”

    Mrs. Priestley said Lynn has never left the Charleston area without telling them of her plans.

    “That’s not like her. She always called and said where she was,” Mrs. Priestley said. “We’re a very close family. That’s why I think if she could possibly get to a phone she would.”

    “The Priestleys said Lynn went to Tidewater Friday evening with her boyfriend, Thomas R. White, but the two apparently separated after 11 p.m. when they disagreed on where to go after leaving the restaurant.

    “I think she wanted to go to Spankys (a bar on the levee) and he didn’t want to go,” Mrs. Priestley said.

    Mrs. Priestley said White told her caught a taxi home after leaving Lynn at a mall exit near Tidewater. Lynn apparently never made it to her car, which was parked beside a sidewalk in the Judicial Annex parking lot.

    “It looks like somebody would see something if she did make it to her car,” Priestley said. “There are no leads whatsoever. “It’s just like she disappeared into thin air.”

    Mrs. Priestley said her daughter grew up in Charleston, and may have become a victim because she wasn’t afraid of the city.

    “You know, kids don’t think about walking on the streets or going to their cars at night,” she said. “I warned her and warned her and warned her. I just hope all girls learn something from this. Life is too short to even take the chance.”

    The Priestleys say they have received about 30 phone calls a day since Lynn disappeared, each one bringing them immediately to their feet. Most calls are from friends, offering help or consolation.

    “Everybody sure has been good to us,” Priestley said.

    But Mrs. Priestley, fighting tears as she talks about what might have become of Lynn, said the uncertainty is especially painful.

    “This is the worst part, not knowing whether she is dead or alive,” she said. “The thing that hurts is what have they done with her darling little body?”

    “I don’t know. We just have to sit and wait and see what happens – just hope and pray.”

    Lynn Priestley is 5 feet 4 inches tall, weighs 125 to 130 pounds, and has shoulder-length blonde hair and brown eyes. She was wearing a light blue Jordache blouse and blue Jordache jeans when she was last seen. Anyone with information can call Detective R. E. Flowers at 348-6480.

    ______________________________________________________________

    I spoke by phone with Detective Flowers (now retired). He will take a look at his old case notes and give me what personal recollections he has about the case. Flowers, who goes by the nickname "Rusty" is a member of a group of retired CPD detectives who meet for breakfast once or twice a month and he also promised to get me an introduction to this group, some of whom worked this case.

    I've tried scanning the newspaper reports but due to the dark color of the microfilm reproductions, my scanner cannot convert the files to a Word Document. So I am forced to retype them all. It takes time and this is but one case I am reviewing.

    Later today, after I have seen more information, I will add to this file the reports of the finding of Lynn’s body, and witness statements. But I can report to you the statement of a security guard at the Judicial Annex where Lynn’s car was parked:

    “I heard a very loud argument in the parking lot as I was taking out some trash.”

    A sworn officer was also able to speak with Lynn’s boyfriend Thomas R. White following the argument. He identified both Priestley and White, but refused to talk with reporters at the time due to evidentiary value of his report.

    Lynn’s body was found by a fisherman on the river bank, and I will post that information later today. I'm looking forward to your opinions.
     
  16. shadowangel

    shadowangel Black cats consider me unlucky.

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    It certainly should have been easy enough to check the boyfriend's story-that he took a taxi home. A quick check of local cab companies would reveal if he indeed did take a cab, at what time, and at where he was dropped off. Going by his story, I have to assume they arrived in the restaurant area together, Lynn driving.
    Whoever murdered Lynn had to have access to a vehicle since hers was found in the area from which she disappeared. Also, I have to think that the person who killed her was familiar with the Charleston-Kanawha City area. The person would have headed southeast for some distance on either Kanwaha Blvd or McCorkle Ave (Rts 60 or 61) through some fairly populated areas (Kanawha City was, in the mid-80s through the early '90s, the "hang-out" and cruising area for most of the kids in the area). The person may have taken I-64 south, but again I have to believe he knew the area in order to exit near the Marmet area and reach the river.
     
  17. shadowangel

    shadowangel Black cats consider me unlucky.

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    On another note, it doesn't appear the the Charleston Daily Mail has researchable archives.
     
  18. Kanawha City Frank

    Kanawha City Frank New Member

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    Shadowangel,

    Yesterday afternoon I contacted two Charleston police officers, one a Deputy Sheriff (not the one I quoted yesterday) and another retired CPD officer (not Rusty Flowers). I am attempting to make a timeline of the events of her disappearance and the discovery of her body.

    I now have all of the Charleston newspaper coverage of the murder. There are two papers in town: the Charleston Gazette (morning) and the Charleston Daily Mail (afternoon). Both papers are owned by the same corporation. And they are not easily accessed online.

    Lynn went missing on Friday night, March 21, 1990. According to witnesses at Tidewater, the restaurant where Lynn and Tom White ate, she and Tom arrived at Tidewater around 11 p.m.

    According to Gazette reporter Maryclaire Dale’s 3-22-90 coverage f the discovery of her body, the two had been at Bennigans prior to coming to Tidewater. Lynn was socializing with patrons and, at one point, Tom left her and did not return for some 15 minutes. When Lynn asked where he’d been he told her he’d got lost. Moments later, the two left.

    Quoted from Dale’s article:

    Missing woman’s body found on riverbank


    (beginning at paragraph 7):
    Priestley’s body was found about 2:30 p.m. lying face-down at the river’s edge, about a quarter of a mile east of Winifrede. The steeply sloped riverbank inches from W. Va. 61, is about 15 feet high. The area lies about 10 miles upstream from Charleston.

    Police said it did not appear the body had been in the river.

    Priestley had worked part-time at Tidewater from its opening in 1985 until 1988.

    She remained friends with current staff, employees said.

    Employees who worked Friday said she came into the restaurant with her boyfriend, Thomas R. White of Charleston, about 11 p.m. One employee said they have been at Bennigans earlier.

    The couple stayed less than an hour, drinking in the lounge, employees said. Lynn was very social, was seen talking to friends from other area restaurants while they drank.

    At one point, White left the restaurant for about 15 minutes. When he returned, he told Priestley he had gotten lost. About 15 minutes later the two were gone, employees said.

    Friends who had talked with Priestley at Tidewater Friday expected her to join them after 11 p.m. at Spankys, a bar on Kanawha Boulevard at Capitol Street, according to police. She never arrived.

    On Saturday, White came back to Tidewater at 6 p.m. to ask if anyone had seen Priestley that day, a bartender said. He (White) said they had gotten separated after leaving the restaurant the previous night. An employee gave White her keys, which Priestley had left on the bar.

    Reached at home Wednesday night, White declined to comment.


    The remainder of the article describes the clothes Lynn was wearing and describes her purse. There are also accounts of the family’s pain, bit nothing else of evidentiary value.


    The following day, March 23, 1990, Charleston Daily Mail reporter Frank Hutchins filed the following report:

    Cause of woman’s death probed​


    By Frank Hurchins
    ©Charleston Daily Mail 3-23-90

    Authorities today were to determine the cause of death of a Charleston woman whose nude body was found along the banks of the Kanawha River south of Chesapeake.

    A man searching for a place to fish Wednesday afternoon discovered the body of Lynn Priestley, 34, who had been missing since Friday night. No arrests have been made in connection with the death.

    “We’re treating it as a homicide,” said Sgt. Dallas Staples of the Charleston Police Department.

    Priestley’s body was discovered about 2:30 p.m., lying face-down approximately two-thirds of the way down a steep bank leading from W. Va. 61 to the river. The bank is covered by tress and thick brush.

    Ed Leonard, an investigator for the Kanawha County Prosecutor’s Office and one of the first people to arrive at the scene, said the woman appeared to have been dead several days.

    “I think it’s been over there since early Saturday morning,” he said. “She was thrown over there; you could tell.”

    Leonard said blood near the body indicated that Priestley had died not long after she was thrown over the hill.

    Leonard said he didn’t see any wounds on the body that would indicate physical violence.

    Austin “Whip” Wilson, a Chesapeake City Councilman, said he was in the City Hall when a man came in to report seeing what appeared to be a body about one-half mile south of town.

    “He was looking for a place to fish,” Wilson said. “He didn’t know if it was a real body of a mannequin.”
    Wilson and Leonard, who was also in the City Hall, went to check out the report.

    “Ed Leonard and myself came back up here and Ed went over the bank and verified it was a body,” Wilson said. He said the body was lying about four feet from the edge of the water.

    “It didn’t appear the body had been in the water,” Staples said.

    Priestley, who was assistant director of the Charleston Urban Renewal Authority, was reported missing Saturday afternoon. Her parents, Charles and Blanche Priestley of Kanawha City, said they became concerned after being contacted that morning by Lynn’s boyfriend, Thomas R. White.

    White told the Priestleys that he and Lynn had been at Tidewater Grill in the Charleston Town Center. They separated about 11 p.m. after disagreeing on where to go after leaving the restaurant, her parents said.

    White told the Priestleys he took a taxi home and Lynn headed toward her car, which was parked in the Kanawha County Judicial Annex lot.

    Leonard said his investigation indicated that Priestley and her boyfriend were involved in a loud argument in the judicial annex parking lot on the evening of her disappearance.

    Denzil Shamblin, a security guard at the annex, said he was on duty when he heard an argument take place in the lot. He said he was taking out trash bags at about 12:30 a.m. when he heard a woman screaming.

    “I saw this girl run over toward the federal building and up the street,” Shamblin said. He said his glasses were broken and he was unable to tell who was involved in the fight.

    Shamblin said that Deputy Mike Stiltner, who had just finished his shift as bailiff in magistrate court, stopped the man involved in the argument and the two exchanged words.

    “This boy must have said something to Mike,” he said.

    Stiltner would not comment on the incident, but said that he had given a statement to authorities.

    An employee of Tidewater said he had spoken to Priestley that night, and she seemed fine. He said he thought Priestley had left the restaurant by the time he got off work by 11:15 p.m.

    Priestley reportedly was supposed to go to Spankys, a bar on the levee, but never arrived there, her parents said. Her car was found on the Judicial Annex parking lot.

    Detectives from the Charleston Police Department and the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Department scoured the area where the body was found Wednesday. Plaster molds were made of footprints at the roadside, and evidence was collected from around the scene.

    Dr. V. Kashirsangar of the state medical examiner’s office was called to the scene to examine the body. An autopsy was to be performed today.
    _____________________________________________________

    According to the detectives with whom I spoke yesterday, Lynn’s clothing and purse have never been located.

    Did Thomas R. White call a cab? Yes, but we still have no idea when exactly Lynn was killed. There are many ways White could have been the killer. The timeline is as likely to exonerate White as it is to convict him.

    Plus, Shamblin claims Lynn ran away from the scene and that White was definitely stopped by Deputy Stiltner, the bailiff. I will interview the CPD Cold Case Squad as soon as Major Beckett can get me in there, hopefully Monday or Tuesday. In the meantime, I’m attempting to locate the reporters, and surviving family members of Lynn Priestley, if they are willing to speak with me.

    You have to “like” White for the killing BUT, if the evidence was really strong that he did it, my feeling is Rusty Flowers would have busted him for it. There has to be a very good and compelling reason Thomas R. White was not arrested and tried for this crime.
     
  19. Kanawha City Frank

    Kanawha City Frank New Member

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    I passed along shadowangel's comments to a detective familiar with the case. He told me that I would find the answer to why White was not charged in the case notes. However he did tell me he was no longer connected to the case and did not want to comment on the record his feelings.
     
  20. shadowangel

    shadowangel Black cats consider me unlucky.

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    It must have been a pretty solid reason... The bf is the obvious first choice. However, there are some questions that I have. Did TW have access to his own vehicle? If he did in fact take a cab, which is indicated, he had to be taken somewhere where he could access a vehicle. Then pick up Lynn, assault her, transport her body to the dump site, return... Her car wasnt moved all night, since someone at the restaurant/bar had her keys. It does seem strange that TW didnt go asking questions until the following evening. Were the two living together? If not, were his vehicle and residence searched (thoroughly)? It will be really interesting to see why TW wasnt pursued further as a suspect.

    The detective's reticence to speak about TW after all this time seems odd. Were there any political factors involved in the case? Was TW related to someone in the gov't or LE?
     
  21. Kanawha City Frank

    Kanawha City Frank New Member

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    RE: White's political connections... certainly not as good as Lynn's. I'm searching that right now. And I believe the retired detective does not wish to say anything that might contradict the CCS. I'll know more about that soon.
     

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