Toronto police say they’ve arrested a 61-year-old man in unsolved cold-case murders of two women who were found dead in the city decades ago.
Chief James Ramer and Homicide Det. Steve Smith provided the update in the cases of Erin Gilmour and Susan Tice on Monday morning. The two victims were sexually assaulted and stabbed to death in apparent home invasions that occurred months apart nearly 40 years ago.
“This is a day that we have been waiting almost an entire lifetime for,” said Gilmour’s brother, who spoke at Toronto Police Headquarters following the police update. “It finally puts a name and a face to someone who for all of us has been a ghost.”
“It’s truly incredible we are here today. For almost four decades we wondered if we would ever get to this resolution.”
Erin Gilmour was a 22-year-old aspiring fashion designer and was found dead at her apartment in Yorkville five days before Christmas in 1983. Tice — a 45-year-old mother of four and social worker — was found dead at her home in Little Italy four months earlier.
Both women had been sexually assaulted and stabbed multiple times, according to police. The pair were not known to each other.
Investigators were able to link the two cases in 2000 using DNA evidence but were unable to identify a suspect.
In 2008, police announced a $200,000 reward for any information that could lead to an arrest but nothing came of the appeal. A similar reward was offered in 2016 with the same result.
“Since the tragic murders of these two women Toronto police homicide detectives have never stopped investigating these reprehensible crimes,” Ramer said.
He noted forensic investigators were able to use advancements in DNA technology in recent years to narrow the pool of suspects.
“This was painstaking work,” he said.
Police arrested Joseph George Sutherland in Moosonee, Ont. on Nov. 24 and brought him back to Toronto the following day. He is facing two first-degree murder charges.
Det. Smith added the case would not have been solved without the recent scientific advances in DNA technology.
“We were able to use investigative genetic genealogy to narrow down a suspect family,” he says. “From there we were able to narrow down a suspect who is under arrest today.”
Smith said investigators will look into any possible connection with other unsolved cases in an effort to ensure Sutherland isn’t a suspect.
Sutherland will appear in a Toronto courtroom on Dec. 9.