Police have arrested a suspect in connection with the homicides of two women in Toronto which took place 39 years ago.
Susan Tice and Erin Gilmour were both found dead in their respective homes in 1983.
Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Toronto police Chief James Ramer said a man was arrested in Moosonee, Ont., on Nov. 24 in connection with the investigation.
Ramer said 61-year-old Joseph George Sutherland from Moosonee, Ont., was arrested and has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder.
“As relieved as we are to announce this arrest, it will never bring back Erin or Susan,” Ramer said.
Tice, a 45-year-old mother of four, was found stabbed to death in her Toronto home on Aug. 17, 1983.
She had moved to Toronto from Calgary a month before her death.
Gilmour, age 22, was found dead in the bedroom of her home on Hazelton Avenue on Dec. 20, 1983. Police said she had just gotten home from work at Robins Knits.
Officers said both women had been sexually assaulted and had been stabbed to death.
According to police, Tice and Gilmour did not know each other.
Police said the two homicides were been linked by DNA in 2000.
Speaking at the press conference Monday, Det. Sgt. Steve Smith from the force’s homicide and missing persons unit cold case section, said the force used a technology called investigative genetic genealogy (IGG) to identify a suspect.
“I’ll tell you that the only way that this was solved was the advances in science,” Smith said. “We’re able to use investigative genetic genealogy to narrow down a suspect family, and from there we were able to narrow down a suspect, who is obviously under arrest today.”
According to Smith, Sutherland was “not a suspect or a person of interest” in the case, until the IGG technology was used.
“If we hadn’t utilized this technology, we never would have came to his name,” Smith said.
Smith said Sutherland had been served with a DNA warrant.
Sutherland was taken into custody by Ontario Provincial Police in Moosonee, where he was living, police said. He was then picked up by Toronto police.
According to Smith, there were “no issues whatsoever” during the arrest.
Smith said Sutherland was living in Toronto at the time of the incidents, but has lived in several places across Ontario since 1983.
“Now that suspect has been in Ontario for 39 years since these murders,” Smith said. “So obviously, we’re going to look into every possible connection to any possible case, throughout Ontario, to ensure that he isn’t responsible for any other offences.”
Smith said the accused has a family and an extended family, most of whom live in northern Ontario.
According to police, Sutherland is scheduled to appear in court on Dec. 9.
Gilmour’s brother, Sean McCowan, said the family is “very, very happy” that an arrest has been made.
“The last few days have bought or brought around a full spectrum of emotions, as you can imagine, and this is a day that I and we have been waiting almost an entire lifetime for,” he said. “In a sense, there’s a real relief that someone’s been arrested, yet it also brings back so many memories of Erin and her brutal, senseless murder.”
McCowan said Gilmour was an “amazing friend to everyone around her,” had a “magnetic personality,” was a “natural beauty and was always full of life and looking for her next adventure.”
McCowan said his sister “had her whole life ahead of her before she was killed five days before Christmas.”
“There was an incredible life to be lived, that was taken away from her and the rest of us,” he said. “We will always wonder what could have been and miss her presence and miss growing old with her.”
He said the family never “gave up hope” that an arrest would be made in connection with Gilmour’s murder.
“But almost over four decades, we began to wonder if we would ever get to this resolution,” McCowan said. “We’re so thankful that technology finally caught up and provided the incredible detectives at TPS a new set of clues and ultimately an answer. We cannot thank the detectives and cold case enough.”