A 15-year-old ballet dancer was killed 40 years ago. Her death is a mystery.

For decades, the Thor family has hoped to learn more than the grim news they received in 1982, when searchers found Sharon Thor’s bludgeoned body in the woods, about a quarter mile from the family’s home on John E. Busch Avenue.

On October 26, 1982, at about 5:30 p.m., the 15-year-old was preparing to leave her Franklin Township home for a weekly ballet dance lesson in Bound Brook when the home telephone rang.

Sharon seemed pleasantly excited to hear from the caller.

When she hung up the phone, Sharon told her mother that she would be right back and darted outside to the street without stopping to grab a coat or purse.

A child who had been playing in a nearby yard later told police she climbed into the passenger side of a vehicle that pulled up in front of her house, but the boy paid no attention to the car and cold share no useful information.

Sharon was an accomplished tap, jazz, and ballet dancer, and her ballet dancing had won her several awards and was very serious about her dance lessons.

She had been dancing since she was in pre-school, hoped to one day open her own dance school and had never missed a lesson.

The teen’s mother, Sonia, assumed that her daughter would return momentarily because she had to leave for a dance lesson in 15 minutes. As the minutes ticked by without any sign of Sharon, Sonia started to grow concerned.

Sharon and Sonia would always leave the house at 5:45 pm to arrive at the Neva McCrimmon School of Dance in Bound Brook on time for her lessons so when she wasn’t home by 6 pm, her mother knew that something had to be wrong.

Sonia and her husband, Frank, spent the next half hour in a panic, certain that something had happened to their daughter.

They finally drove to the Franklin Police Department to report that Sharon was missing, but the Franklin police wouldn’t process a missing person report for at least 24 hours.

Three days later, a team of searchers found Sharon’s body discarded in a wooded area about a quarter-mile from her home.

The parents engaged in a frantic search, driving around to all of the places Sharon was known to frequent.

They went to her dance school, visited the homes of several of their daughter’s friends, combed through retail shops on Easton Avenue, and looked in several fast-food restaurants. No one they spoke with had seen Sharon that evening.

Frank and Sonia had to break the news to Sharon’s four brothers that their only sister was missing.

Sharon wasn’t the type of teenager who would run away from home; she was close with her parents and brothers and dedicated to pursuing a career in dance.

At the time she went missing, she was just two days away from her sixteenth birthday; her mother had already bought and wrapped the cowboy boots that Sharon had wanted. A report published in 2011, said that Sonia still had the unwrapped gifts.

The teenager never went anywhere without her purse and hairbrush, but these items, as well as all of Sharon’s other belongings, were in her bedroom.

On Friday, October 29, 1982, her partially clothed body was found in a wooded area just a quarter of a mile from her home. The property was maintained by a local utility company; although there were signs posted to prohibit trespassing, there was no fence to keep anyone out.

The girl had died a brutal death, being beaten with a two-by-four and a cinder block that were found near her blood-covered body.

She had sustained multiple fractures to her ribs and head, and she had been sexually assaulted before her death.

Authorities determined that Sharon was killed only an hour after she left the house.

By the time her parents started looking for her, it was already too late.

The Franklin Police Department and the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office assigned more than a dozen detectives to the case, interviewing at least 85 people during the first week of the investigation.

Although they claim to have identified several persons of interest, investigators were unable to develop any strong suspects.

Prosecutors say Sharon’s murder appeared to be sexually motivated and they believe that she knew her assailant, but like the vast majority of crimes reported to police, the case remains unsolved.

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