Thirza Sweeten was a great-grandmother five times over, a woman who loved knitting, crocheting and Westerns.
A native of Manchester, England who moved to Paulsboro in the 1970s, the 79-year-old cancer survivor was a regular at Cowtown in Woodstown, and lived on a quiet corner in the borough.
So when at South Delaware and Jessup Streets in March in Gloucester County’s first murder of 2012, it shocked the neighborhood and set police and prosecutors on a hunt for her killer, as they scoured the area and interviewed dozens of people in the days following her death.
And after a three-month investigation and lab tests that linked a suspect already in custody to Sweeten’s death, Gloucester County Prosecutor Sean F. Dalton announced charges in her murder Friday.
Samuel Kevin Davis, 45, who goes by just Kevin Davis, a Paulsboro resident himself, was charged with first degree murder in the death of Sweeten and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose, and is in jail on default of $750,000 bail.
Unspecified biological evidence analyzed by the State Police lab in Trenton confirmed Davis’ connection to the murder, Dalton said. just days after the killing, and had been arrested on an unrelated charge on March 20, the day after Sweeten’s body was found by her daughter.
Murder weapons had been found at the scene, Dalton said, though he wouldn’t disclose what they were, only saying Sweeten had died from both blunt- and sharp-force trauma.
Davis knew Sweeten through her son, Dalton said, but declined to comment on whether there had been any incidents between the two previously. Dalton said Davis, whose last address was less than a mile away on Swedesboro Avenue, had been to Sweeten’s home in the past, however.
“This wasn’t a random act,” Dalton said.
The charges against Davis, who uses multiple aliases, aren’t his first brush with the law—he was convicted of the 1996 aggravated sexual assault of two women by force, and served five months in state prison in 2008 for a Megan’s Law violation.
The case was cracked through teamwork, Dalton said, and credited the efforts of both prosecutor’s office detectives and Paulsboro police in identifying Davis as the alleged killer.
“This case would not have been solved without the cooperative efforts and the efforts of these individuals working around the clock,” said Dalton.