Police refuse to disclose name of dead woman

March 14, 1997


Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Police on Friday still hadn't disclosed the name of the dead woman found stuffed inside a sleeper sofa here last week, but officers continued to work after hours to solve the slaying.

At one point Friday, it looked as if the victim's identity would be made public, but Martinsburg City Police Detective George Swartwood then told reporters he needed to spend time tracking down a new lead in the slaying.

Early Friday, reporters had been called to a news conference by Martinsburg police, who said they planned to release a picture of the dead woman in an attempt to get the public's help in identifying her.


But just as they were about to talk to reporters, investigators announced a development had arisen. They said they would not release the picture.

Hours later, reporters were called again. Police officials said they had identified the woman and would release her name at a news conference at the police station.

But those plans were tossed when Swartwood announced police had come across more new information. He told reporters he had no time to release the woman's name.

Seven days have passed since a passerby spotted the woman's body stuffed in a brown couch behind the H-Mart convenience store in the Martinsburg Plaza.

The victim, described as white and in her 50s or 60s, had been stabbed repeatedly in the chest and stomach, officials said earlier this week.

Martinsburg police are taking the lead on identifying the woman, said an official with the state medical examiner's office in Morgantown, W.Va., where an autopsy was performed on the body.

If police think they are close to identifying the woman through fingerprints or other means, the medical examiner's office can help make the final conclusion, officials said.

An official there said Friday that the office had not been asked to make such an identification yet.

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