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Man charged after DNA links him to 1983 killings of women found dead in their Toronto homes: "Erin and Susan are finally getting their day"

Tracing family trees to catch killers
Inside the genetic genealogy being used to solve crimes 13:49

A 61-year-old man has been charged in the cold case killings of two women who were found dead in their Toronto homes within months of each other almost four decades ago, police said Monday.

Erin Gilmour Toronto Police Service

Police Chief James Ramer said Joseph George Sutherland, of Moosonee, Ontario, was arrested Thursday and charged with first-degree murder in the killings of Erin Gilmour and Susan Tice in 1983.

"As pleased 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," Ramer said in a statement. "After 39 years of dogged police work, our investigators have made sure this individual will answer for these heinous crimes."

Both women had been sexually assaulted and stabbed to death, Ramer said. Although their bodies were discovered four months apart, detectives linked the deaths using DNA technology in 2000, and investigators suspected the same man in both cases, he said.

Gilmour, 22, was an aspiring fashion designer and the daughter of David Gilmour, who co-founded Barrick, which was the world's biggest gold mining company before it was overtaken in 2019 by rival Newmont. 

Susan Tice Susan Tice

The 45-year-old Tice was a family therapist and a mother of four.

Police Detective-Sgt. Steve Smith said advances in science allowed them to narrow down a suspect family, then a suspect. He said police in 2000 had linked the two murders through the suspect's DNA left at the scene.

Then recently, he said, "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."

Smith noted that the suspect had not been a person of interest in the killings. "If we hadn't utilized this technology, we never would have came to his name," Smith said.

Police are looking to see if Sutherland is linked to any other cases.

Smith said Sutherland was living in Toronto at the time of the deaths. He said there is a publication ban on the case and declined to release more details.

On behalf of the victims' families, Erin's brother Sean McCowan shared their relief after 39 years: "Erin and Susan are finally getting their day."

"This is a day that I, and we, have been waiting almost an entire lifetime for," McCowan said. "In a sense, there's a relief that someone has been arrested. Yet it also brings back so many memories of Erin and her brutal, senseless murder."

Sutherland is next set to appear in court on Dec. 9.

Joseph George Sutherland Toronto Police Service

AFP contributed to this report.

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