Friday, 1 April 2011

Cold Case #1: Who killed Toronto women Susan O'Hara Tice and Erin Gilmour in 1983?

While corresponding with the Canadian true crime writer Robert Hoshowsky today I was reminded of two cold cases which appeared in his engrossing Unsolved (Dundurn, 2010).  In 1983, two women were savagely murdered in Toronto, though their cases would not be linked until the advent of DNA technology. On the surface the killings seem to bear little resemblance to each other because the victims were so radically different. However if one is to take the UNSUB's Modus Operandi and Signature into consideration (concepts I explore in my forthcoming book Cold North Killers: Canadian Serial Murder) then there are actually some striking similarities. Let's examine the first murder adhering to the 6 question method.

First victim

WHO: Susan O'Hara Tice. A 45-year-old female living alone in Toronto's Little Italy neighbourhood. She had recently split with her longtime husband, an employee at CIBC Wood Gundy.  At the time of the murder, both spouses held separate residences in Toronto. Susan was a kindhearted plain woman with short dark hair. Trained in nursing, she had recently moved on to work with disadvantaged children.

WHAT: According to available sources, Susan was raped, strangled and stabbed multiple times in the chest and lungs.

WHERE: Susan's house on 341 Grace Street, near Harbord. Her body was found in the second floor bedroom.

WHEN: Sometime between Sunday August 14th, 1983, when she was last seen, and the following Wednesday August 17th when her family became concerned and sent a brother-in-law to check on her. A neighbour reported hearing screams late one night, but chose not to investigate.

HOW: There has been no mention of any ligatures or restraints being used to bind the victim. The strangulation seems to have been a mechanism of coercion or a sadistic appetizer to her death by multiple stab wounds. Nor have police hinted that any knives were taken or left at the crime scene. Susan's home had been ransacked and $75 in cash stolen. Perhaps most interestingly, a doorway entering the home was left ajar.

WHY: First let's analyze the second murder attributed to this UNSUB, because there are similarities that begin to form a picture of the offender's psychopathology.

Second victim

WHO: Erin Gilmour. Unlike Susan, Erin was only 22 with long blonde hair.  She was notably attractive and came from a wealthy family.  At the time of her death, Erin was working at Robin's Knit Shop in Yorkville, and living alone in the two bedroom apartment above.  She was dating.

WHAT: As in Susan's case, Erin Gilmour was raped, strangled and repeatedly stabbed.

WHERE: In her apartment above Robin's Knit Shop at 37B Hazelton Avenue in Yorkville, an upscale fashionable district of Toronto. Erin was found on her bed. The distance from the Susan O'Hara Tice crime scene was less than 4 km!

WHEN: Between 8:45-9:20 PM on the cold winter's night of Tuesday December 20, 1983. Erin's boyfriend actually found her within minutes of her murder as the two had arranged a date at 9 PM.  Unfortunately he had stopped at a bank machine and arrived too late to save her.

HOW: Almost identical to Susan's murder, except in this incidence the apartment was not ranscaked, nor was anything of monetary value taken. Yet the door was found ajar; Erin was strangled and raped before being stabbed; and again, there was no mention of ligatures or restraints. It is notable that Erin was working at Robin's Knit Shop until 8:45 that evening and had locked up the store and headed into a nearby laneway to enter her apartment, as there was no access from inside the shop.

WHY: Both slayings are classic cases of lust murders where some combination of anger, the need to assert power and sexual release have become inseparably and lethally fused. Unlike more selective offenders such as Ted Bundy and Paul Bernardo who sought out specific traits in their victims, this UNSUB chose two very different types of women because they shared one commonality - they lived alone. They were selected for their 1) sex, 2) vulnerability, and little more (though Erin's striking looks might have caused the UNSUB to focus on her).  As in the case of the Parkdale Bludgeoner analyzed in the last blog entry, there is an absence of fetish evident at the crime scenes, showing that though the perpetrator was motivated by sexual desire and the need to control, his fantasy life was not significantly developed. If there is one item that seems to leap out, it is the repetitive stab wounds which might be indicative of overkill or picquerism (sexual arousal through the inflicting of knife wounds). From what little information has been released, I would say this is more a case of the former, as picquerist wounds tend to be clustered and shallower, just breaking the skin.  In his Unsolved, Robert Hoshowsky speaks of stab wounds that penetrate the lungs, so we are probably looking at an UNSUB motivated more by boundless rage and a desire to destroy more than torture or fetishism.

Before constructing my profile I would like to tack on my usual ass covering warning: I am working on information provided in a book of unsolved crimes. Therefore if there are key pieces of evidence that have been excluded or that investigators are holding back, this will negatively effect my profile. As the FBI behavioural analyst John Douglas once said "garbage in, garbage out". So assuming that I am working with pretty much all the information there is, I will now construct a psychological and character profile of the Tice-Gilmour serial murderer.

The Tice-Gilmour Murderer

Sex/Gender: The UNSUB is a male, and identifies as such.

Age: The UNSUB was between the ages of 17-25 in 1983. An older offender would have a more developed fantasy life, and would have showed more confidence and control at the crime scenes. I will expand on this in the Occupation/skills/intelligence/socialization period

Race/ethnicity: The UNSUB is Caucasian (this includes Hispanic) or black. We do not typically see these sorts of rape-slayings represented in other ethnicities. Despite the FBI's claims that serial killers murder strictly within their own racial group, this has been proven incorrect time and time again (Gary Heidnik, Cleophus Prince Jr, Derek Todd Lee are three examples that spring immediately to mind - yeah, it took 3 seconds).

Occupation/skills/intelligence/socialization: This is not a man who exhibits any kind of self confidence and was probably unemployed at the time of the murders. His IQ will be lower than average and he will appear shy and a little odd - the quiet kid next door who won't make eye contact. He does not believe that women will ever find him attractive, so he harbours constant overwhelming (yet unsophisticated fantasies) of dominating them and using them sexually. He wants to project the pain of rejection he has felt all of his life onto them in the form of physical and emotional pain before destroying them, erasing the superiority they exude over him and offering him psychological relief. He will have no close friends and live a largely solitary existence, roaming the streets aimlessly, but always looking for vulnerable women to destroy. I think there is a distinct possibility that Susan O'Hara-Tice may have known or worked with him as a troubled youth, and this is why he targetted her as his first victim.  To quote The Silence of the Lambs "We covet what we see every day" (or something like that).  For this and other reasons, such as the robbing of the $75, the chaotic ransacking of Susan's house, and foolishly leaving open the door at both crime scenes, he is potentially reliant on alcohol and/or other drugs.  He loves knives, as they make him feel powerful, and will probably carry one at all times or even collect them.*  His tastes in pornography will be towards more soft core porn, and will not extend to S&M as it would have resulted in more ritualistic behaviour.

* - I have been given no information as to what kind of knife was used in the killings, so I am uneasy with this prediction.

Appearance: Because of his lack of self discipline and probable dependency on substances, the offender will be notably unkempt, though not necessarily the woolly mammoth. He will wear clothing that is affordable, comfortable and practical, rather than trying to adopt any kind of style.

Residence: Within walking distance of the two crime scenes.

Relationships/family: He will have a negative relationship with his mother. He feels that she does not love him (establishing a base for how he feels about women in general), and he was emotionally neglected by her. I don't think this will extend as far as physical abuse. The father figure in his life will be less influential, but generally absent and a poor role model.

Criminal/Psychiatric History: The UNSUB will have a history of stalking women and window peeping (voyeurism). He may have committed previous rapes and sexual assaults, on strangers and also on younger members of his family. Breaking and entering is possible, but he does not do it for money, he does it for the sense of power he gets from invading a woman's personal space. Therefore, he will not be an accomplished burglar.  Somebody possessing these skills would have not left the doors to his victims' homes ajar, because obviously it would draw suspicion.

Though he shows no remorse for his crimes (he is a sexually sadistic psychopath) he panics when he sees what he has done and flees immediately. In short, he spends a lot of time planning and rehearsing his crimes - selecting the right victims, thinking about what he'll do to them, possibly bringing equipment; but once his lust is satiated and a dead woman is before him, he realizes the legal danger he has put himself in, and begins to act erratically. This fear of being caught may extend for days or weeks following the murders, until the fantasies begin to build again.  He will not follow his crimes in the news and does not relish nor acknowledge the thought of being a serial killer. 

One last thing - the police have not gone into details about the rapes.  Sometimes they are referred to as sexual assaults.  I think there is a distinct possibility that the offender may have engaged in post or peri-mortem sexual activity with his victims instead of raping them then killing them.  They may be withholding this to try and weed out false confessions.

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