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Man pleads guilty to killing Chester, S.C. woman in 1976

Prosecutors said Ann Wilson had been brutally beaten and strangled after she was raped.
Charles Coleman has pleaded guilty to a Chester woman's murder in 1976.
Charles Coleman has pleaded guilty to a Chester woman's murder in 1976.(Source: Fairfield County Jail)
Published: Feb. 15, 2022 at 11:17 AM EST|Updated: Feb. 15, 2022 at 6:47 PM EST
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FAIRFIELD COUNTY, S.C. (WBTV) – The man charged with the rape and murder of a Chester County woman in 1976 has entered a plea deal before the start of his trial.

On Monday, the state and the defense finished jury selection in the case of Charles Coleman, who is charged with the death of Ann Wilson. The trial was expected to get underway Tuesday. Instead, Coleman pleaded guilty to murder under an Alford plea, which allows a defendant to maintain their innocence while acknowledging there is enough evidence to lead to a probable guilty verdict.

As part of the plea deal, the rape charge was dismissed. The murder charge carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, while the minimum sentence is 30 years.

It was a moment no one in Ann Wilson’s family expected--to hear Coleman plead guilty to the murder charge of their loved one, but they were more than happy to hear.

”Praise God. Praise God he’s right where he’s supposed to be,” says Wilson’s daughter Sherrie Mobley.

Wilson’s family has been waiting for this moment for decades. The family dealing with the fear of the unknown suspect and a lost loved one.

”We were all living in fear. Not knowing if they were coming after us,” says family friend Misti Cinupp.

”Nobody knows what that’s like til they walk that walk,” says Mobley.

The defense lawyer asked for mercy because Coleman doesn’t think he’ll live much longer.

The judge sentenced Coleman to life while noting he will be eligible for parole in 10 years due to that being the law in 1976. At one point during the hearing, the defendant said “I’m sorry.”

Members of Wilson’s family were present in the courtroom for the hearing and subsequent sentencing.

“I hope he rots in hell,” Duke McWaters, Wilson’s son-in-law, said while addressing the court.

On March 20, 1976, Wilson was reported missing after not showing up for her shift as a spinner at the Eureka Plant of Spring Mills in Chester. Her body and a stolen vehicle were found in Fairfield County near the intersection of Ashford Ferry Road and Dave Jenkins Road in Blair.

Prosecutors said Wilson had been brutally beaten and strangled after she was raped.

“He beat that woman so bad I could hardly recognize her. But this was a cruel case. I mean he…nobody should be beat like that,” says McWaters.

According to prosecutors, a DNA sample was found on some of Wilson’s clothes and a towel left in the car.

In 2020, Coleman was arrested on unrelated charges and a DNA sample was taken. In June of that year, a hit showed that his DNA matched the sample found on Wilson’s clothes and the towel, according to the prosecution.

The prosecutor says the missing link was the DNA. Graciousness spreading from family member to family member that they didn’t have to relive the gory details of Wilson’s death once again.

”We just never thought we’d live to see this day,” says Cinupp.

”It’s over now. It’s over,” exclaims Mobley.

As they clutch the only picture they have of their lost but not forgotten loved one, they think back to what she would have said about this moment.

”Y’all did it. This is a blessing,” says Mobley.

In October 2020, Coleman was charged with Wilson’s rape and murder. During a December hearing, bond was denied.

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