Cops work cold cases
Trevor Wilhelm, Windsor Star
Published: Friday, January 02, 2009
The little girl was beaten so viciously that the killer's blows broke her right leg and her teeth.
The brutal sexual assault and murder of six-year-old Ljubica Topic three decades ago was among 13 cold murder cases the Windsor police major crimes unit still had on the books this year.
"They remain open cases," said Staff Sgt. Norm Burkoski, who runs the eight-officer unit. "Of course, the more time that goes on, the more peoples' memories fade. So it's important to keep them in the public realm so anyone with information can come forward. Generally, that's what will regenerate the investigation into these cold cases."
The major crimes unit also grappled with 47 fresh cases this year, including three murders, two manslaughters, seven attempted murders, 10 suspicious deaths and four aggravated assaults.
Those were among more than 81,000 incidents the Windsor Police Service handled in 2008.
Of the new major crimes cases, all but six, including an aggravated assault, attempted murder and suspicious death, were concluded.
Since 1971, Burkoski said, there have been 206 murders in Windsor. That's an average of 5.5 a year. Police have solved 104 of them, including all 21 murders since 2004.
One of the most brutal unsolved murders was the death of Ljubica Topic. She was led away hand-in-hand from outside her parents' Drouillard Road home by a stranger who offered her $8 to help him with a job. Her battered body, face covered in blood, was found a few blocks away.
Since 1995, there have been three unsolved murders in Windsor.
Mother of three Diane Dobson, 36, died from multiple blows to the face, likely from a steel bar, and was dumped in a muddy ditch in Brighton Beach in February 1995.
Carol Christou, 55, was found dead in her bathroom in October 2000 with multiple stab wounds to her throat and abdomen.
Police found Debilleanne "Dee Dee" Williamson, 29, bludgeoned to death in her west end basement in February 2003. Officers also found her murdered four-year-old son Xavier Rucker in the bathroom on the main floor of the home.
"These are considered cold cases," said Burkoski. "Each investigator in major crimes is assigned at least one. They are still open."
Those cases don't include outstanding murders in towns surrounding Windsor. Christine Woelk, 49, of Leamington, was last seen alive May 18, 2004, arguing with a man inside a minivan. Her body was discovered a week later on Black Willow Beach in Point Pelee National Park. In February 2006, teaching assistant Nancy Galbraith-Quick, 40, was run down by a stolen minivan in front of several students.
Larry Strangway, 41, was gunned down in May 2006 in his Harrow home. Essex police Chief Greg Pigeon said his service still receives tips on that case.
Burkoski said someone coming forward to give a tip or get something off their chest often gives police the break they need to solve old cases.
Something similar occurred this year with the case of Geoffrey Michael Campbell. Police charged him in August with first-degree murder for the 1997 strangulation of 16-year-old Maribeth Williams. The killer left the girl's wailing infant son alone with the body. Campbell had already been convicted of manslaughter for a different crime and labelled a dangerous offender in prison.
"That was a case where the suspect himself came forward, in effect providing a confession in relation to a crime he allegedly committed," said Burkoski.
Unsolved Windsor murders:
Debilleanne Williamson and son Xavier Rucker, 4 -- Feb. 27, 2003
Carol Christou -- Sept. 20, 2000
Diane Dobson -- Feb. 15, 1995
Ken Clouthier -- May 1993
Roy Stathis -- Feb. 26, 1991
Robert Crow -- Aug. 28, 1990
Adrian Verstraeten -- March 23, 1989
James Ferris -- April 5, 1987
Sylvie Desroches and Clifford Zacher -- April 26, 1984
Bernard Beaudoin -- March 21, 1982
Marlene Sweet and son Jason, 7 -- Sept. 1, 1982
Kirk Knight -- May 19, 1980
Ljubica Topic, 6 -- May 14, 1971