By Associated Press - Wednesday, April 13, 2016

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - A man dubbed the “most prolific serial killer” in the history of a central Pennsylvania county, who’s already serving a life sentence for killing three women, has been charged in the 30-year-old slaying of another woman.

Authorities in Dauphin County, which includes Harrisburg, Wednesday have announced a first-degree murder charge against Joseph Miller in the death of 26-year-old Kelly Ann Ward who went missing in February 1986.

District Attorney Ed Marsico said Ward’s body was found by a work crew in 1997 near the spot where the bodies of three slain Harrisburg women were found. Coroner Graham Hetrick said that Ward’s death was classified as a homicide but the exact manner of the slaying couldn’t be determined.

The 51-year-old former Steelton resident was previously convicted of killing Selena Franklin, 18, and 23-year-old Stephanie McDuffey, whose bodies were found in a landfill. He was sentenced to death, but that sentence was changed to life in prison in 2008 after the state Supreme Court ruled that Miller’s mental disability precluded his execution as cruel and unusual punishment. Miller wasn’t charged in the death of a third woman whose remains were found in the same area.

He is also sentenced to life for the 1990 murder of Kathi Novena Shenck, who authorities said he ran over several times with his car and then buried in a dump in neighboring Perry County.

The county public defender listed in court documents as representing Miller couldn’t immediately be reached Wednesday.

Chief Jason Umberger of the Swatara Township Police Department said advances in forensic technology enabled the FBI to identify partial remains as Ward’s in the spring of 2014, reported. Investigators focused on Miller because the body was near the spot where two of his victims were found and “it became apparent that the modus operandi was very similar,” Umberger said.

Miller “would prey on African-American women,” Marsico said. “He would lure them to a secluded location and kill them.” Umberger said what he called “incriminating statements” by Miller were also a factor in charging him.

Marsico said the arrest “marks another chapter” in the case of what he called “the most prolific serial killer in Dauphin County history.”

“The evil that took place in the perpetration of these crimes can’t be overstated,” he said.

Faun Ward, a cousin of Kelly Ann Ward, said he had more or less given up hope that the person who killed his relative would ever be found.

“Kelly was a wonderful person. She was loved by everyone. And she will be missed,” Faun Ward said. “We just hope she gets the justice that she deserves.”

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