Local law enforcement will continue to work on a 25-year-old Washington County murder case, despite the suspect being denied parole this week and remaining in a West Virginia prison on other charges.
The case against Gary A. Gibson, 55, had been reignited with the possibility that he could be released from prison; this week he was denied parole but will have the chance to come before the parole board again in a year.
Gibson had always been implicated in the 1984 rape and murder of 36-year-old Belpre mother of five Cathleen Farmer Gill but was never charged. The prosecutor at the time has said the two other men charged in the crime were too frightened to testify against Gibson, weakening the case.
Gibson was already in prison on other charges when the other two men were convicted of the crime.
Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks said having an extra window of time to work on the investigation will be beneficial but that the parole denial doesn't mean the investigation will slow down or stop.
"It doesn't have any bearing on our decision to pursue this," he said. "We're going to continue full speed ahead."
Mincks said an officer is assigned to the case and has been able to locate witnesses and information needed, including the West Virginia state trooper who took original statements following the crime.
"It is challenging because we don't have a body, but the people who worked the case 25 years ago did an excellent job of preserving evidence and testimony," Mincks said. "We're pleased with what we have, and I think we're going to be able to have a successful indictment."
Gibson is currently serving a life sentence at the Huttonsville Correctional Center. He was convicted as a recidivist and given the sentence in 1985, following a 1978 conviction for voluntary manslaughter, a 1982 case in which he pleaded guilty to burglary and a 1985 burglary conviction.
He was also convicted of conspiracy to commit murder, along with four other inmates, following the 1986 stabbing murder of a fellow prisoner. The conviction was overturned on appeal after it was determined he hadn't received a fair trial because inmates who testified for the prosecution wore civilian clothes while inmates who testified for the defense wore prison attire.
Gill's sister, Faye Farmer, of Marietta, said Gibson's parole denial this week meant the family was "resting easier."
"We were nervous and scared," she said. "We don't want him to ever get out. We need an indictment."
One of the two men convicted of the murder, Richard Starkey, was released from prison in 2006 after serving 20 years and the other, Steven Scott Carmichael, who has been in prison since 1986, went before the parole board this week as well.
A decision is expected next week, said Farmer, who is hoping for his release. Farmer said Carmichael came forward first, has shown remorse and has cooperated with police.
"He may be willing to testify against Gary Gibson now," she said. "(Carmichael) needed to serve his time but now I want him to come home because we need him. We need him to tell the truth."
According to investigators, all three men were acquaintances of Gill's and after a night out in Parkersburg offered her a ride home that night in 1984. They then took her to a Belpre apartment, took turns raping her and choked her to death with a broom handle. Her body was dumped in the Ohio River and never found.
Mincks said he encourages anyone with any information on Gill's death to contact the Washington County Sheriff's Office, which they can do anonymously.
"Someone who didn't come forward then could feel safer now," he said. "If anyone has information, we would appreciate the call."