Windsor Star

A killer exposed

Cold case closed by DNA match

- BYDALSON CHEN STAR STAFF REPORTER

Judy Sawchuk was 25 years old when her battered body was found lying in a dried pool of blood on the floor of her downtown Windsor apartment.

More than two decades later, police have named the man responsibl­e for the brutal sexual assault and slaying: Gerald Dennis Hillman of Windsor.

“New informatio­n and DNA technology have resulted in solving the 21-year-old murder of Judy Sawchuk,” superinten­dent of investigat­ions Dave Pickford said Thursday at Windsor police headquarte­rs.

“No active murder investigat­ions are ever closed. They always remain open until they are solved,” Pickford added.

Man confessed

Pickford said detectives were told the identity of the killer by a man to whom Hillman had confessed shortly after the Jan. 5, 1985, crime.

It wasn’t until 2003 that police learned of the confession and the witness told police what he knew.

“He had expressed concern that he may be implicated,” said Staff Sgt. Norm Burkoski, lead investigat­or in the case. “That’s why he withheld informatio­n for some time.”

More detective work revealed that Hillman — who was 24 at the time of the murder — died of a suspected drug overdose on Sept. 16, 1986, about 19 months after the killing.

Last month, investigat­ors exhumed Hillman’s body from his unmarked grave in Windsor. Samples taken from his corpse were compared with DNA evidence that had been seized from the crime scene and preserved at the Centre of Forensic Science in Toronto.

“A profile was obtained from semen collected from the body of Judy Sawchuk,” Pickford said.

The centre confirmed a DNA match on Thursday morning.

Bill Sadowski, the brother of crash victim Walter Sadowski, said commercial aircraft should be required to carry “beacons” or other locator devices, something the Transport Canada report failed to recommend.

“It took almost two weeks to recover 10 bodies and a plane from 27 feet of water less than a mile from shore. The waiting and waiting for news, that was psychologi­cally damaging to the families,” he said.

Sadowski said he has no complaints with the rescue and recovery workers who “risked their lives” to retrieve the downed aircraft in the middle of the winter.

Shortly after takeoff on the last flight of the day from Pelee Island on Jan. 17, 2004, the Cessna Caravan crashed into frozen Lake Erie.

Flight 126 that day weighed about 9,820 pounds, Transport Canada said, almost 1,300 pounds more than the maximum total takeoff weight for such Cessna aircraft flying into icing conditions.

Walter Sadowski, 48, and Ronald Spencler, 53, of Windsor; Larry Janik, 48, and Fred Freitas, 38, of Kingsville; Dr. Jim Allen, 51, of Mitchell’s Bay; Robert Brisco, 46, Tom Reeve, 49, and Ted Reeve, 53, all of Chatham, were killed.

Pilot Wayne Price, 32, of Richmond Hill, and his girlfriend Jamie Levine, 28, of Los Angeles, Calif., were the other two victims.

Sadowski said a coroner’s inquest could have highlighte­d the need for locator beacons to help rescue and recovery missions. He said he’ll be contacting the coroner’s office and possibly his MP on the matter.

 ?? Star photo: Jason Kryk ?? FINAL RESTING PLACE: The gravestone of murder victim Judy Sawchuk at Windsor Memorial Gardens.
Star photo: Jason Kryk FINAL RESTING PLACE: The gravestone of murder victim Judy Sawchuk at Windsor Memorial Gardens.
 ?? Star file photo ?? SOLVED: Windsor police announced Thursday that DNA evidence has helped them solve a 21-year-old murder case. Victim Judy Sawchuk is shown in this 1985 photo.
Star file photo SOLVED: Windsor police announced Thursday that DNA evidence has helped them solve a 21-year-old murder case. Victim Judy Sawchuk is shown in this 1985 photo.
 ??  ?? Walter Sadowski
Walter Sadowski
 ??  ?? Dr. Jim Allen
Dr. Jim Allen
 ??  ?? Ronald Spencler
Ronald Spencler
 ??  ?? Robert Brisco
Robert Brisco
 ??  ?? Larry Janik
Larry Janik
 ??  ?? Tom Reeve
Tom Reeve
 ??  ?? Wayne Price
Wayne Price
 ??  ?? Fred Freitas
Fred Freitas
 ??  ?? Ted Reeve
Ted Reeve
 ??  ?? Jamie Levine
Jamie Levine

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