26-year-old Gwendolyn Fogle was known best by her middle name, Elaine. She was found murdered in her Walterboro home 37 years ago and police say they are finally closing the case with an arrest made on Tuesday.
News 2 spoke to one of Elaine’s cousins on the phone today, and he said she was a pretty girl who had a lot going for her. Elaine moved from Orangeburg to Walterboro to work at the old Walterboro Hospital and moved into a house right across the street from work, that’s where she was found murdered.
Lead investigator on the case, Detective Corporal Gean Johnson says, “It appears that she was attacked as soon as she got home that night. She was sexually assaulted, she was beaten, brutally beaten. There was a fire poker that was part of evidence that was actually wrapped around her neck and I’m almost sure that was the cause of death.”
Walterboro Police are charging 59-year-old James Willie Butterfield in this case almost four decades old. Det. Cpl. Johnson took over the case in May ans says re-questioning and re-analysis of evidence led him to Butterfield.
Johnson says, “In this case there was a lot of names there as far as investigators were looking at then. And it just so happened his name was one of the names, but was overlooked, I would think. I think I remember seeing it in one report and then never seen it again.”
Another hand in this case is retired SLED Special Agent Rita Shuler who was there 37 years ago when the investigation began, and she hasn’t given up.
Shuler says, “I was elated. It was a long time coming. But all through when I was working with Detective Johnson he kept saying, I’m going to solve this case, we’re going to solve this case, and I knew we would.”
She says she was there with the Fogle family Tuesday when they received the news.
Shuler says, “Elaine’s sister especially, she was just shaking. All we could do was just hold her hand. Her mom and dad had died before they knew and I kind of feel like they died with a broken heart. But Elaine’s sister now has the peace she’s always wanted.”
The police department and Shuler agree it was the Fogle family that kept the investigation alive, pushing detectives to close this cold case.
Shuler says, “Before, they kind of let it go aside, but we did not stop this time. We kept on going and we got what we need. We got him.”
According to the Walterboro Police Department, Butterfield will not go to bond court for these charges until later this month because he is already in custody on unrelated charges.