Arrest made in gruesome 1983 murders of 2 Toronto women
A 61-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the gruesome murders of two Toronto women nearly 40 years ago.
Police said DNA linked Joseph George Sutherland to the deaths of Erin Gilmour, the daughter of a wealthy Toronto businessman, and Susan Tice, a mother of four. Both women were killed inside their homes in 1983.
Detectives were able to connect both crime scenes through DNA evidence in 2000.
Sutherland, who was living in Moosonee, Ont., was arrested on Thursday and brought back to Toronto the following day with the assistance of the Ontario Provincial Police, police said.
He was living in Toronto at the time of the killings.
Sutherland is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and is set to make his first court appearance on Dec. 9.
“Toronto police homicide detectives have never stopped investigating these reprehensible crimes or seeking to find the person responsible,” Toronto Interim Chief of Police James Ramer said Monday.
Joseph George Sutherland, 61, of Moosonee, was arrested on Thursday. (Supplied)
“This [arrest] demonstrates that the Toronto Police Service will never give up on finding people who commit crimes in our city.”
Det. Sgt. Stephen Smith, the lead investigator on the case, said that because Sutherland has been living in Ontario for 39 years since the murders, investigators are going to look into “every possible connection” to any other cold case throughout the province.
In Toronto alone, Smith said, there some 700 cold cases -- 43 of which have a link to known offender DNA.
Erin Gilmour, the daughter of mining magnate David Gilmour, was 22 years old when she was stabbed, strangled and sexually assaulted in her Yorkville apartment on the night of December 20, 1983.
She lived alone above the store she had been working at on Hazelton Avenue in Toronto. Her boyfriend would make the grisly discovery at approximately 9:20 p.m.
Four months earlier, and fewer than three kilometres away, 45-year-old Tice was found stabbed to death after being sexually assaulted in her Bickford Park home on Grace Street.
Erin Gilmour and Susan Tice are seen in these undated images provided by Toronto Police Services.
ADVANCES IN DNA TESTING KEY TO ARREST
Smith said the “only” reason the investigation into the deaths of Gilmour and Tice was solved was due to the advances in genetic genealogy testing.
Specifically, detectives used a tool called investigative genetic genealogy (IGG), which cross references the genetic information voluntarily uploaded to family tree websites to track down potential suspects.
In the case of Sutherland, Smith said, investigators sent DNA samples in 2019 to Texas-based Othram Inc., a company that specializes in forensic genealogy to solve cold-case murders.
Following that testing, Smith said, the investigative team was able to narrow down a suspect family, which eventually allowed them to zero in on Sutherland.
An image of Joseph George Sutherland. (Facebook/Joseph G. Sutherland)
“The IGG in this case has just showed us that previously, unsolvable cases are now solvable by the advances with science,” Smith said.
That sample was sent south of the border for testing, along with a piece of evidence linked to the unrelated 1984 murder of nine-year-old Ontario girl Christine Jessop.
Police identified her killer as Toronto resident Calvin Hoover in late 2020, which, Smith said, speaks to the complicated and timely process that lead up to Sutherland’s arrest.
“This case into itself is probably the most complex case that I've ever worked in my 25 years,” Smith said.
Smith went on to say that Sutherland was served with what’s known as a DNA warrant and that police obtained a DNA sample from the accused “at some point.”
‘SOMEONE WILL FINALLY FACE JUSTICE’: VICTIM’S FAMILY REACTS TO ARREST
Sean McCowan, Gilmour’s brother, admitted at Monday’s news conference that, after four decades, the family was beginning to wonder if there would ever be a resolution in the case.
“Until just a few days ago when I received the best call I've ever received,” McCowan said.
“They finally put a name and a face to someone who for all of us has been a ghost. It's truly incredible that we are here today.”
McCowan went on to describe the many milestones Gilmour missed out on when her life was cut short at 22 years of age.
"She had her whole life ahead of her before she was killed five days before Christmas. She'd never had a chance to be an aunt to her four nieces and three nephews. She never had a chance to live her life. Never get married. Never be a mother and never had a chance to see what could have been. There was an incredible life to be lived that was taken away from her and the rest of us," McCowan said.
Sean and Kaelin McCowan, brothers of Erin Gilmour, are seen at a press conference in Toronto on Monday November 28, 2022. Toronto police say they've arrested a 61-year-old man in the DNA-linked cold-case murders of Gilmour and Susan Tice, who were found dead in their homes within months of each other almost four decades ago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
He said that their mother, Anna McCowan, was never the same following Gilmour’s murder.
The family’s matriarch died in 2020 and McCowan said that she would have been so “relieved” that an arrest had been made and “so happy that someone will finally face justice after being anonymous for 39 years.”
SUSPECT HAS A FAMILY, WAS NEVER QUESTIONED
While little is currently known about Sutherland, Smith revealed that the suspected killer has a family and that most of his relatives live in northern Ontario.
Asked if he has a wife and children, Smith said he did not want to get into the specifics.
The rarity of the Thursday arrest was highlighted by the fact that Sutherland was not listed as a suspect in either murder and was never questioned by police while he was living in Toronto.
"In this case, if we hadn't utilized this [IGG] technology, we never would have come to his name," Smith said.
Moreover, Smith said that there were no “issues” upon Sutherland’s arrest and that “when you commit these crimes, you're just waiting for that knock to come at the door.”
Toronto Det.-Sgt. Steve Smith of the force's homicide and missing persons unit cold case section speaks during a press conference in Toronto on Monday November 28, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
POLICE STARTED TO CLOSE IN ON SUSPECT LAST YEAR
Speaking with CTV News Toronto in October of 2021, Smith divulged that detectives weren’t actually sure if their suspect was alive – putting the chances at “50/50.”
Despite that, his team continued to work around the clock to eventually identify Sutherland if for nothing else but closure for the victim's families.
"Most of the motivation comes from the family members. We speak to the family members in, I would say, at least 100, maybe more, of our murders on a weekly or bi-weekly basis," Smith said at the time.
“The drive of the family members to get closure, to find out not necessarily why their loved one was killed, but who killed them, it gives us motivation to keep these at the top of our mind."
Although the arrest would come more than a year after that conversation, even then, Smith said he knew the suspect was from a “small town in Canada.”
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
With the anniversary of Ukraine's invasion by Russia around the corner, CTV News sat down with a Russian warfare expert to discuss how he sees the conflict playing out and what happens next.
According to Environment and Climate Change Canada, as of Thursday morning there were extreme cold or winter storm warnings active from coast to coast, with the harshest extreme cold warnings stretching from northern Alberta all the way to Nova Scotia.
Would you pay $300 a year for quick access to a nurse? Dealing with demand, Ontario doctors get creative
Paid subscriptions to on-demand care are among the many strategies primary health-care providers in Ontario are adopting in order to meet increased demand for access to doctors in the past year, while also managing staffing shortages.
Nestle Canada says it is winding down its frozen meals and pizza business in Canada over the next six months. The four brands that will no longer be sold in the freezer aisle at Canadian grocery stores are Delissio, Stouffer's, Lean Cuisine and Life Cuisine.
A paramedic signing off for duty for the last time got choked up and teary-eyed during his final radio call to colleagues.
Hundreds of customers who scan QR codes for restaurant menus across Canada are being surprised by secret menus instead, revealing the hidden costs behind the food they eat.
One of Saskatchewan’s oldest hockey rinks has garnered national attention for its unique features and unusual design.
The U.S. is tracking a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon that has been spotted over U.S. airspace for a couple days, but the Pentagon decided not to shoot it down due to risks of harm for people on the ground, officials said Thursday.
Will we see six more weeks of winter, or an early spring? Here’s what some of the groundhogs (and one human) have predicted so far, from coast-to-coast.
After an extremely mild month of January, the province is bracing for a blast of arctic air that will move in tonight and last until Saturday. Environment and Climate Change Canada has issued extreme cold warnings that covers most of the province with wind chills expected to be between -38 and -42 across the South and -50 across Northern Quebec.
A beloved man who was a fixture on the streets of Montreal's Notre-Dame-de-Grace neighbourhood died last year from a combination of street drugs in his system, including fentanyl, a coroner has ruled.
Medicago's parent company has announced that the Quebec City-based biopharmaceutical company, which developed a vaccine against COVID-19, will cease operations.
One person has died and four others were sent to hospital after a two-vehicle crash in south London Wednesday night. She has since ben identified by her former cheerleading coach as 19-year-old Chloe Mackenzie.
Two-year-old Ella Crosset loved to dance and celebrate Halloween. Her smile lit up a room, and brought joy to so many people. But Ella passed away after a pool accident, and the pain of that loss was incomprehensible — through tragedy however, comes hope.
Environment Canada has lifted a snow squall warning for the London region Thursday evening, but a cold weather alert from the Middlesex-London Health Unit remains in effect. In addition, Grey-Bruce and Huron-Perth remain under snow squall and extreme cold warnings.
Police say they’ve arrested multiple people and one person was taken to hospital following reports of an armed robbery at Conestoga Mall on Thursday.
'Time to move on': Reaction as Udo Haan found not criminally responsible for wife’s death, house explosion
A Kitchener man, who was charged with killing his wife and then blowing up their home in 2018, has been found not criminally responsible.
A blast of cold Arctic air is expected to reach southern Ontario Thursday night paired with possible heavy blowing snow, according to Environment Canada.
An argument between two young children playing outside together escalated to violence when a parent got involved, a North Bay mom says.
The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. is holding a big reveal Friday morning: the winner of a $48 million Lotto 6/49 Gold Ball draw.
The past few weeks have been a bit of a roller coaster for 16-year-old Ra'Jah Mohamed, a student at Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School.
EXTREME COLD WARNING
EXTREME COLD WARNING | Temperatures to drop to -30 C the next two nights in Ottawa
Environment Canada has issued an extreme cold warning with Ottawa expected to see its coldest temperatures in years.
Two parents are facing charges of criminal negligence causing bodily harm after a toddler suffered an opioid overdose at a home in Kingston, Ont. last week.
As March Break approaches, travel agents are experiencing a surge in bookings, with many families choosing to travel to Disney World in Florida despite the rising cost.
Windsor police say they are looking for five suspects who used a distraction technique to steal $5,000 in tools.
Addiction specialists in Windsor, Ont. are urging caution about the dangers of problem gambling with Super Bowl season around the corner. According to officials at Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare, demand for recovery services has climbed since single-event sports betting became legal in Canada last August.
The first topic tackled by University of Windsor President Dr. Robert Gordon was the cyber security incident that occurred last year. 'It’s just the new reality that all universities and colleges are dealing with,' said Gordon, who explained during his State of the University Address things could been worse had it not been for the help of the community.
Convicted pedophile Shayne Lund, now 31, revealed he is recently married and took part in a day and full parole review in a videoconference hearing Thursday from the Ottawa area.
A mother and daughter from Sarnia are under arrest and facing charges associated with animal abuse.
The Town of Innisfil is renaming its community centre to honour the memory of fallen South Simcoe Police Service officer Const. Morgan Russell.
On the day that Shubenacadie Sam predicted six more weeks of winter, there are extreme cold warnings cautioning that the coldest air of the season is about to arrive in the Maritimes.
Police in Sackville, N.B., are investigating after seven children ingested cannabis edibles at a middle school on Wednesday.
An extreme cold warning has been issued across the region, with some saying the arctic air could break record-low temperatures in the Maritimes.
Calgary police are investigating after a carjacking at a northeast dealership on Thursday afternoon.
Calgary's Alexandria Loutitt did it again Thursday afternoon, winning gold at the FIS Nordic Jr World Ski Championships in Whistler.
A Calgary pro wrestling legend has passed away.
New documents show what led to a couple handing out cannabis-infused gummies to children in Winnipeg - and what happened in the hours directly after.
Ducks Unlimited Canada is celebrating World Wetlands Day by highlighting a success story in Niverville, Man.
A mobile home owner could potentially be out thousands of dollars after learning her home might not be insurable.
A man was found fatally shot in a vehicle on a residential street in Burnaby Thursday afternoon, and homicide investigators have been called to the scene.
Strong winds are expected to arrive Friday afternoon and last until the evening.
Hidden along old logging roads and tucked in near rivers and waterways, are campers who have made Crown land near the Chilliwack River their homes.
If EPS, sheriffs try a hard crackdown on inner-city Edmonton it could make things worse: criminologist
A former Edmonton Police Service officer believes bringing Alberta Sheriffs into downtown Edmonton is a risky plan that has the potential to backfire if not done properly.
The Operation Friendship Seniors Society (OFSS) announced Wednesday that it would be shutting down services at the McCauley Seniors drop-in facility.
Three more Albertans died from influenza in a one-week period, according to the latest data from health officials, while newly reported cases decreased for the 10th week in a row since the peak in mid-November.