- Associated Press - Thursday, December 3, 2015

WALTERBORO, S.C. (AP) - Police have arrested a suspect in the death of a 26-year-old Walterboro lab technician who was raped and killed in her apartment more than 30 years ago.

Fifty-nine-year-old James Willie Butterfield of Walterboro has been charged with murder, first-degree criminal sexual conduct and first-degree burglary, police said Tuesday, according to reports from local media outlets. It was not clear whether Butterfield had an attorney who could be contacted for comment on the case.

The body of Gwendolyn Elaine Fogle was found May 28, 1978.

She had walked in on a burglary at her home and was assaulted, hit in the head with a fireplace poker, and then strangled with the tool, according to police.

Police Chief Wade Marvin said progress was made in the case when he assigned a new investigator, Gean Johnson, in May. There was also new analysis of the evidence by the State Law Enforcement Division.

“Recent advancements in technology and forensic testing allowed additional detailed information to be obtained that was not possible in 1978 or even in 2010, when SLED last performed significant work on this cold case,” Agent Tom Berry said.

Johnson worked closely with Rita Shuler, a retired forensic photographer for SLED who lives on Johns Island. She had catalogued the evidence from the scene and helped keep the case alive.

“Thank God we preserved the evidence,” Shuler said. “We have been looking at this case over the years. It’s an amazing feeling. I’m still shaking over it. We just had to develop the technology to catch up with it.”

Family members were called to the station Tuesday to be told about the arrest.

“We just sat there in silence for a few minutes,” said Fogle’s first cousin, James Fogle of Barnwell. “We’ve been waiting on this for 37 years. The reaction was just tearful. It’s not about us. It’s about Elaine.”

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