Cross-country murder suspect was charged in 2017 throat slashing

The man who reportedly hitchhiked with a woman from Georgia to Kentucky before killing her, faced a an attempted murder charge in 2017, but the charge was later dropped.

ELIZABETHTOWN, Ky. (WHAS11) A murder investigation in Elizabethtown is raising questions in 3 different states about how the suspect met his victim and why charges against him were dropped in a previous violent crime one year ago.

Joseph Capstraw is charged with murder after police said he admitted to beating a woman to death on Joan Ave July 7.

“I killed her,” an arrest report claims Capstraw, 20, said to officers who responded to the call for a suspicious person.

“He had various signs of injuries to his hands: cut bruised and swollen,” Elizabethtown Officer John Thomas said.

Thomas said his department investigates less than a handful of murders each year and this one was, by far, the most bizarre.

“In 10 years in law enforcement, I’ve never seen anything like this.”

He said investigators were trying to get answers from the man who lives at the Joan Avenue home and why Capstraw and the victim were there.

“We don’t have any reason to believe he’s from this area, we believe he’s from Florida, it’s very possible the victim is from out of state as well,” Thomas added, “So we’re still trying to figure out exactly how did they even end up in Elizabethtown let alone in this awful situation.”

It’s believed the two met in Lumpkin County, Georgia at the Rainbow Family of Living Light Gathering — where thousands of self-described misfits and nature lovers unite over peace. The pair reportedly hitchhiked from the event to Kentucky, but Thomas said investigators were still trying to confirm if that was true and who they may have met.

Capstraw told police he and the woman got into an argument, he blacked out and when he woke up, the woman was dead, his arrest report shows.

“He made the statement to the officers, ‘I killed her,’ and he had various signs of injuries to his hands, they were cut, bruised and swollen.

According to court records obtained by the 11 News iTeam, Capstraw admitted to another violent attack in 2017. A police report from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office shows Capstraw told police he was the victim in a fight at a beach and stabbed a man in the neck.

But Capstraw hid the knife in the sand, the report shows.

“I asked him why he cut the victim’s throat if he had already disarmed him,” and investigator wrote. Capstraw’s response is redacted. “I asked him why he then fled and buried the knife in the sand,” the report continued.

Detectives arrested Capstraw and charged him with attempted murder in the Florida case on May 7.

Three weeks later, prosecutors dropped the case, records show.

“After reviewing evidence in the above-styled case, the undersigned Assistant State Attorney declined to prosecute this defendant for these charges,” Duval County Assistant State Mai Thanh Thi Tran wrote in the May 30 disposition notice.

A spokesperson for the State Attorney office could not immediately elaborate on the reasoning for the dropped charges, but said he was in the process of reviewing the file.

The case against Capstraw still stands in Kentucky along with plenty of questions, one of which is who the murdered woman is.

“I would like to take this opportunity and thank everyone with the overwhelming response about the identity of the female victim involved in the murder in Kentucky. The victim has been identified,” Lumpkin County Sheriff Stacy Jarrard wrote in a Facebook post Sunday, praising social media users.

Thomas said his department had not positively identified the woman and was not prepared to release a name, but indicated tips from the public pushed investigators closer to that point. He expected to release the woman’s name soon.

Mike Kaminski in Jacksonville and Kaitlyn Ross in Atlanta contributed to this report. They can be reached at and Follow Kaitlyn on Facebook and Twitter. iTeam Investigative Reporter Derrick Rose can be reached at (502) 582-7232 and Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.