Cold Case: Investigators searching for leads in 1996 double murder

Cold Case: Investigators searching for leads in 1996 double murder
File footage of the scene where Rosalyn Rankins was shot in 1996. (Source: WAFB)
File footage of the scene where Rosalyn Rankins was shot in 1996. (Source: WAFB)

ASCENSION PARISH, LA (WAFB) - It was a spring night, April 29, 1996. Rosalyn Rankins had borrowed her best friend's boyfriend's car and was headed home to Baton Rouge, but for some unknown reason ended up in the Mount Gillion Baptist Church parking lot on Henry Road in Prairieville.

Investigators said it wasn't long until someone approached the car Rankins was in and eventually shot her but didn't stop there.

Ascension Parish Sheriff Jeff Wiley had just been elected sheriff a few years prior and remembers the case well.

"I don't know if it gets any worse," Sheriff Wiley said.

The suspect not only shot Rankins in the face, but also her goddaughter who just happen to be in the car with her at the time. The 2-year-old child, Megan Hall, had powder burns on her hands possibly from trying to shield her face from the gun.

"This is one that would stick with you, and it should stay with us," Wiley said, describing the horrible nature of the crime. "Hopefully this will not only bless the memory of the two deceased, but also maybe activate or energize somebody out there who knew something then and at the time didn't want to come forward and now maybe it's a little easier through Crime Stoppers to do it anonymously and that would be my prayer that that would happen."

Neighbors noticed a suspicious car in the church's parking lot and called 911. When authorities and paramedics arrived they found Rosalyn Rankins barely alive in the front seat and her goddaughter still strapped into her car seat. Neither would survive their wounds.

However, in what the family describes as a miracle, fast-acting paramedics, realizing that Rosalyn Rankins was 7 months pregnant, were able to get her to the hospital, where doctors would end up saving the unborn child.

"You know thinking that if she would have been here, things would have gone that way or this would have been like this or things would've been a lot different had she still been here," said Surlia Williams, Rosalyn Rankins' mother and the woman who raised her "miracle" baby. "Because it's never easy losing a child, that was my only girl."

Williams said Rosalyn's child is grown now and graduated high school and eventually started a family of her own.

All of these years later, Williams is still haunted by the fact that the case remains unsolved but is hopeful.

"I'm still prayerful that it will. I know God works things out in his time, and I'm just looking forward to that day," she said.

Investigators recovered the gun believed to have been used in the double homicide. A child found it in a ditch. DNA testing was relatively new then and so far not much help in this case.

Investigators are hoping someone will come forward which information or "even the smallest little thing" to help them solve this cold case.

"I'd be less than honest if I didn't tell you that we hit a dead end on this thing a while back," Wiley said. "We have our angles and we have our hypothesis about who, what, when, where on this, but not enough that ever rose to the level of probable cause for an arrest."

If you have any tips that could help investigators, please call Crime Stoppers at (225) 344-STOP (7867). You can remain anonymous and could be eligible for a reward which is still paid out anonymously.

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