Joseph Sutherland Is Behind Bars for Two Murders Thanks to Genetic Genealogy

"This has been dogging all of us for 40 years. We wanted to find out who did it and why and what this guy’s name was," said Erin's brother.

Brandon Charles - Author

Apr. 22 2024, Published 10:17 a.m. ET

Joseph Sutherland's mug shot
Source: Toronto Police Service

Without families advocating for murder victims, criminals like Joseph Sutherland might have gotten away with the murders of Erin Gilmour and Susan Tice.

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Thanks to developments in genetic genealogy, Toronto police were able to finally tie Sutherland to the murders in November 2022. According to the warrant document, “After many years of investigation, it wasn’t until (genetic genealogy) became a tool for law enforcement that five Sutherland brothers were identified as persons of interest,” reported The Toronto Star.

Joseph Sutherland at the beach
Source: Joseph G. Sutherland Facebook
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Joseph Sutherland is now behind bars and serving a life sentence.

In March 2024, 62-year-old Joseph Sutherland pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of Susan Tice and Erin Gilmour. The murders were committed in 1983. DNA evidence tied the cases together in 2008. Genetic genealogy finally tied Sutherland to the case in 2022.

Justice Maureen Forestell sentenced Sutherland to life in prison with no chance of parole for 21 years. Sutherland is currently imprisoned at the Toronto South Detention Centre.

According to The Toronto Star, Judge Forestall said, “Both murders fall close to first-degree murder. Even one of these murders would have, in my view, justified a period of parole ineligibility in the highest range. Two such murders demand an exemplary sentence. A parole ineligibility period of less than 20 years would not be sufficient.”

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Source: YouTube

The CBC reported that the judge also said, "The deaths of Susan Tice and Erin Gilmour were not quick and they were not painless. Ms. Tice suffered numerous defensive injuries as she fought for her life. Ms. Gilmour was bound and gagged. They were killed in their homes, which should have been places of sanctuary."

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"The victims were sexually assaulted. The impact of the violence has continued to be felt by the other victims in this case, the families and friends of Susan Tice and Erin Gilmour, over the past 40 years."

The Global News’ quote from the judge leads us to the importance of the victim’s families. “The pain of the losses was magnified for both families by the uncertainty that the perpetrator of the murder had never been found.”

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Erin Gilmour's brother Sean McCowan speaking after Joseph Sutherland's sentencing
Source: Getty Images

Erin Gilmour and Susan Tice's families kept their memories alive.

Erin Gilmore's brother, Sean McCowan, spoke after the sentencing. "You want to see a number of 100 but, at the same time, 21 years, in light of the fact that the maximum it could be is 25, is a pretty decent outcome, I think, in our family's view."

Speaking on moving forward, he said, "I’m happy to have the legal aspect of it done, this has been dogging all of us for 40 years. We wanted to find out who did it and why and what this guy’s name was. And, finally, we got there.”

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Susan Tice's daughter, Christian Tice, was asked how it felt to finally see someone behind bars after 40 years and the lack of justice. She said, "There’s no closure, there’s no justice, it’s something that stays with you and we’re just happy they got the guy, he’s finally going to be put in jail and for me, I feel safe now.”

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The newest episode of Dateline, "Evil Walked Through the Door," documents Gilmour and Tice's murders and takes a closer look at Sutherland. The episode is available to stream on Peacock.

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