Cold Case Investigations: What happened to Joann Charlton?

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Going back to where it started in the mountains of Western Maryland

FROSTBURG, Md. (WDVM)– Every year, parents across the country send their kids off to college. But for one, they never saw their daughter again.

What started out as a normal day at college suddenly gripped everyone with fear as students were awakened to screams of horror.

“It probably wasn’t much more than a minute after the search process began that we discovered her body,” said Frostburg State University’s Associate Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Tom Bowling.

It was September 11th, 1983, 19-year-old Joan Ann Charlton, a freshman from Jamaica, was proud to be part of the campus at Frostburg State University.  The next day, it was determined that Charlton was missing and it wasn’t until September 13th that Charlton’s body was found in the campus arboretum by two faculty members on a search team.

“I looked down and I saw Joann Charlton’s leg that was exposed,” said Dr. Bowling. “She was along the edge of the stream of the bank. To just have her college career, let alone her life cut so short, so quickly was just devastating.

Maryland State Police say Charlton was stabbed 19 times. Investigators performed hundreds of interviews with students, staff, town residents, and also conducted wiretaps. Among those looking into what happened was then 21-year-old State Trooper Stewart Russell who went undercover posing as a classmate. A disguise so good no one suspected he wasn’t really a student.

“We wanted very badly to solve this case and still do, and even though I’m retired now since 2012, I still have a sense of regret that we never successfully closed this,” said Russell.

Questions linger and the case remains unsolved but one thing is clear, Charlton will always be remembered in the community, student body, and hearts of state police who are still pushing for justice almost four decades later.

“This broke all our hearts, you know a young person being murdered in such a horrific way,” said Russell. “It’s one thing to lose a child in an accident, still horrific, but a murder of someone in that horrible manner hit all of us.”

Charlton’s case remains open and is currently being investigated.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Maryland State Police at 410-653-4211

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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