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Canada’s Genealogy Leads To 1983 Murder Arrests

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Canada's Genealogy Leads To 1983 Murder Arrests

(CTN NEWS) – Genealogy – With the use of new DNA technology, police were able to identify a 61-year-old man from Northern Ontario who was charged with first-degree murder in the brutal killings of two women in Toronto nearly 40 years ago.

Provincial police detained Joseph George Sutherland in Moosonee, Ontario, on November 24. He was then sent to Toronto to stand trial on two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of Susan Tice and Erin Gilmour.

Interim At a Monday morning press conference, Toronto police chief James Ramer confirmed Sutherland’s arrest.

In August and December 1983, Tice, 45, and Gilmour, 22, were both sexually raped before being stabbed to death in their beds.

In the center of the city, Tice lived near the Bickford Park neighborhood, while Gilmour rented an apartment in Yorkville.

Canada's Genealogy Leads To 1983 Murder Arrests

According to the police, the two women were strangers.

Gilmour, the daughter of mining magnate David Gilmour, was an ambitious fashion designer, and Tice, a family therapist and mother of four teens.

As happy as we are to report this arrest, Ramer stated, “Erin and Susan will never come back.”

Sean and Kaelin McCowan, brothers of Gilmour, also attended the press briefing.

Police were commended for their efforts by Sean McCowan, who added that the family would “always wonder what may have been” if Gilmour had not been killed.

McCowan said, “We have been waiting almost a lifetime for this day.”. “This finally puts a name and a face to a ghost,” he said.

“The fact that someone has been detained is kind of comforting. However, it also makes me think of Erin and her heinous, senseless death.”

In 2000, Ramer said, detectives were able to link the two murders using DNA testing, and they concluded that the same perpetrator killed both women.

To determine the suspect’s family tree, authorities started utilizing an “investigative genetic genealogy” method in 2019.

Cross-referencing DNA from crime scenes with voluntary DNA samples from companies like 23andMe or, then uploading the results to open-source databases, is the procedure.

According to Det.-Sgt. Steve Smith, the case’s main investigator, the team went backward to create a family tree of the suspect’s kin.

The man who allegedly raped and killed Christine Jessop, age 9, in 1984 was identified using the same procedure, according to Toronto police.

According to Smith, Sutherland was presented with a warrant for his DNA to be directly compared to samples found at the crime scenes as investigators honed in on him.

Canada's Genealogy Leads To 1983 Murder Arrests

Toronto Police Chief James Ramer left, and Sean McCowan is shown here listening to Det.-Sgt. Steve Smith gives an update on an arrest in the decades-old cold case at police headquarters in Toronto. McCowan’s sister, Erin Gilmour, was killed in 1983. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

In his 25 years on the force, Smith dubbed the inquiry the “most intricate” case he had ever worked on and attributed the most recent development to genetic genealogy.

Sutherland, according to him, had never before been a person of interest in the deaths.

He told reporters, “If we hadn’t used this technology, we never would have come to his name.

The Toronto Police Service has established a strict procedure for employing the method, according to Smith, who also expressed his “very confident” in the accuracy of the findings.

Smith elaborated on the cold case inquiry into the killings of Tice and Gilmour in 2021 in an interview with CBC’s The Fifth Estate.

Sutherland, according to Smith, has lived in numerous places since the killings and was residing in Toronto at the time.

According to him, authorities will look into any potential ties between Sutherland and other killings in the province over the past 39 years.

Sutherland has a family of his own, and his extended family resides primarily in northern Ontario, Smith continued.

He said a publication prohibition barred him from revealing any further information regarding Sutherland, due back in court on December 9.

Canada's Genealogy Leads To 1983 Murder Arrests

Toronto police released this image of homicide suspect Joseph George Sutherland which they say was taken in the 1980s. Investigators are now reviewing other cold cases to see if there may be any connection between the victims and Sutherland. (Toronto Police Service)

43 of the 700 unsolved cold cases handled by the Toronto police involve DNA samples believed to come from the perpetrator, according to Smith.

According to Smith, police can submit 15 cases from Toronto and 15 from the rest of Ontario for DNA technology analysis each year thanks to three-year provincial funding.


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Alishba Waris is an independent journalist working for CTN News. She brings a wealth of experience and a keen eye for detail to her reporting. With a knack for uncovering the truth, Waris isn't afraid to ask tough questions and hold those in power accountable. Her writing is clear, concise, and cuts through the noise, delivering the facts readers need to stay informed. Waris's dedication to ethical journalism shines through in her hard-hitting yet fair coverage of important issues.

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