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1989 Jasper County Murder Subject of Court TV Piece

Published: Jan. 31, 2005 at 10:17 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 3, 2005 at 3:14 PM EST
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A decade-and-a-half-old murder case in Jasper County still has people talking, and now it's drawing national attention. In November of 1989, Jasper County detectives found a woman's body stuffed into a Navy sea bag and set on fire. It took years before investigators cracked this case. Now, it's piquing Court TV's interest.

As Jasper County coroner Martin Sauls shared the facts from Annie Tahan's murder with Court TV in town to do a segment about the case, Sauls says it brought back memories from that musty November day when they found her body.

"The sea bag had burned and her face was visible at that point in time," he told us.

"The victim was so brutally stabbed then set afire that it took six years to solve," said Maj. Sam Woodward with the Jasper County Sheriff's Office. "To find out she'd just given birth, that's what stood out in my mind, because now we had a mother and a child without a mother."

This Jane Doe case haunted Woodward for years. "I never let it leave my desk. I'd get calls every now and then from missing persons [investigations] as far as California."

Then one day, the pieces started coming together when the victim's friend near her home at the Charleston Naval Base started asking questions and the Navy Intelligence Services got involved. They then matched a reconstructed face model with Annie Tahan.

"This reconstructed face was an incredible likeliness to the picture we had of Annie Tahan, so that was the key to being able to solve it, start looking for the killer," said Sauls.

It turns out Tahan's boyfriend, Chief Petty Officer Michael Paalon, killed her in Charleston and then took her body to Jasper County. He was tried, convicted and sentenced to 30 years.

Before Tahan was identified, the Jasper County community buried her in the Ridgeland Cemetery.

The Court TV piece about the murder case and trial will air this fall.

Reported by: Jaime Dailey, jdailey@wtoc.com