Arrest in Tice, Gilmour Murders
After nearly four decades, investigators and genealogists were able to solve the murders of Erin Gilmour and Susan Tice that beguiled generations of seasoned police officers and tormented their families.
Tice, 45, was murdered on August 17, 1983. She was discovered deceased by a relative in the upstairs bedroom of her residence, sexually assaulted and suffering from numerous stab wounds. Gilmour, 22, was murdered on December 20, 1983. She was found deceased in her bedroom by a friend that evening, also sexually assaulted and suffering from numerous stab wounds.
Last week, Joseph George Sutherland, 61, was arrested in Moosonee, Ontario, where he lived. He is now charged with two counts of First Degree Murder.
“As relieved as we are to announce this arrest, it will never bring Erin or Susan back, and on behalf of the Toronto Police Service, I want to again express my condolences to their families,” Chief James Ramer told a media conference on November 28 at police headquarters. “Toronto Police homicide detectives have never stopped investigating these reprehensible crimes or seeking to find the person responsible.”
In 2000, detectives were able to link the two murders to one unknown suspect from the DNA left at the scenes. In 2008, Toronto Police announced a $200,000 reward for any information that might lead to an arrest. In 2016, investigators made another appeal for information about these crimes, reminding people about the reward.
More recently, investigators have employed emerging technology to develop, sequence and compare DNA to public genealogical databases.
“The only way that this was solved was because of the advances in science,” said Homicide and Missing Persons Unit Detective-Sergeant Steve Smith, who leads the Cold Case Section. “We were able to use investigative genetic genealogy to narrow down a suspect family and from there we were able to narrow down a suspect.”
He credited of investigators, genealogists and the Ontario Provincial Police for the success of the investigation he said was the most complex he’s ever encountered.
The Ministry of the Solicitor General has provided a grant over three years to help pay for investigators and genealogists to investigate Toronto cases, which range from homicides to sexual assaults to unidentified human remains.
The technique has been used to identify a woman found dead in Trinity Bellwoods Park as well as identify the killer of 9-year-old Christine Jessop, who was murdered in 1984.
Smith said that investigators will be looking into other Ontario cases for any connections to Sutherland.
Gilmour’s brothers Sean and Kaelin McCowan were at the media conference.
He said his family had faith that an arrest could be made and were relieved at the arrest.
“The last few days have brought around a full spectrum of emotions as you can imagine. This is a day that I, and we, have been waiting almost an entire lifetime for,” Sean said, of his family, noting that their mother Anna, died two years earlier. “She lost her only daughter and missed Erin every day. It finally puts a name and a face to someone who for all of us, has been a ghost.”
He remembered his sister fondly.
“Erin was our sister, a daughter, and was an amazing friend to all around her. She had a magnetic personality, was a natural beauty and was always full of life and looking for her next adventure and bringing people together,” McCowan said. “She never had a chance to be an aunt to her four nieces and three nephews, never had a chance to live her life, never get married, never be a mother.”
He was thankful that the new technology gave investigators new leads in the case and thanked the generations of Toronto police officers who never gave up on the case, including: Rocky Cleveland, Vaughan O’Toole, Ray Zarb, Greg Groves, Reg Pitts, David Gracey, Paul Wilkinson, Steve Ryan, Stacy Gallant, Andrew Groves and Steve Smith. He also thanked Parabon Nanolabs and Othram for their technological work as well as the media for keeping the story at the forefront of people’s minds.
“You all never gave up on trying to solve this case and we’re grateful beyond anything we can ever express,” McCowan said.