A man has been arrested and charged with the gruesome murders of 2 women in 1983 in Toronto, police say

Joseph George Sutherland faces 2 counts of 1st degree murder for the deaths of Susan Tice and Erin Gilmour

A 61-year-old Northern Ontario man has been charged with first-degree murder in the gruesome murders of two women in Toronto nearly four decades ago, with police saying advances in DNA technology helped them find him.

Joseph George Sutherland was arrested by provincial police in Moosonee, Ont., on November 24 and taken to Toronto to face two counts of first degree murder for the deaths of Susan Tice and Erin Gilmour.

Toronto Interim Police Chief James Ramer announced Sutherland's arrest at a news conference Monday morning.

Tice, 45, and Gilmour, 22, were both sexually assaulted and stabbed to death in their beds in August and December 1983. They lived only a few kilometers apart downtown - Tice in the Bickford Park neighborhood and Gilmour in a Yorkville apartment.

Police said the two women did not know each other.

Gilmour is aspiring fashion designer and daughter of mining tycoon David Gilmour, and Tice is a family therapist and mother of four teenagers.

"Relieved we announce these arrests, never to bring back Erin or Susan," Ramer said.

Gilmour's brothers Sean and Kaelin McCowan were also present at the press conference.

Sean McCowan thanked police for their work and said his family would "always wonder what would have happened" if Gilmour had not been killed.

"This is the day I, and we, have waited almost our entire lives for," said McCowan. "Eventually putting the name and face of someone who to all of us is a ghost," he added.

"In a way, it's a relief that someone has been arrested. But it also brings back memories of Erin and her brutal, senseless murder."

Detectives were able to connect the two murders using DNA technology in 2000, Ramer said, with investigators determining the same man killed both women.

In 2019, police began using a technique called "investigative genetic pedigree" to identify suspects' family groups. The process involves cross-referencing DNA found at crime scenes with DNA samples that are voluntarily submitted to services such as 23andMe or Ancestry.ca and then uploaded to an open source database.

The researchers worked backwards, building a family tree of the suspect's relatives, said Det.-Sgt. Steve Smith, lead investigator on cold cases. The same process was used to identify the man Toronto police say raped and killed nine-year-old Christine Jessop in 1984.

As they narrowed down to Sutherland, Smith said police gave him a warrant for his DNA to test directly against samples taken from the crime scene.

Smith called the investigation the "most complex" case he has worked on in his 25 years on the force and praised recent developments in genetic genealogy. He said that Sutherland had never previously been a person with an interest in the killing.

"If we don't take advantage of this technology, we will never get a name for it," he told reporters.

Smith said Toronto Police had developed a rigorous process for using the technique and added that he was "very confident" his conclusions would stand up in court.

In 2021, Smith spoke in detail to CBC's The Fifth Estate about the cold case investigation into the deaths of Tice and Gilmour.

Smith said Sutherland was living in Toronto at the time of the murder and has lived in several other locations since. He said police would investigate possible links between Sutherland and other killings in the province over the past 39 years.

Smith added that Sutherland had his own family, and had extended family members living mainly throughout northern Ontario. He said the publication ban prevented him from disclosing further details about Sutherland, who is scheduled to next appear in court on December 9.

Of the Toronto police's 700 cold cases, there were 43 where DNA samples found at the crime scene were suspected of belonging to the perpetrator, Smith said.

Under a three-year provincial grant, Smith said police can submit 15 Toronto cases and 15 other Ontario cases for DNA technology investigations each year. This article was written by EDUKASI CAMPUS. 

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