Cree man sentenced to life in prison after confessing to 40-year-old murders

Joseph George Sutherland says he killed Susan Tice and Erin Gilmour

George Sutherland pleaded guilty on Oct. 5, 2022 to murdering two Toronto women nearly 40 years ago. Photo: Facebook

A Toronto judge has sent a Cree man to prison with no chance of parole for 21 years.

Superior Court Justice Maureen Forestell sentenced Joseph George Sutherland to life in prison on March 22.

Sutherland was 61 when he was arrested in November 2022 for the brutal 1983 murders of Susan Tice and Erin Gilmour. He pleaded guilty last October.

Tice was 45 when she was found stabbed to death after being sexually assaulted in her Bickford Park home. She lived just a few kilometres away from Gilmour, 22, who was stabbed, strangled and sexually assaulted in her Yorkville apartment.

The women did not know each other.

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Tracing a First Nations family tree helped catch a killer

Court heard that Sutherland considered turning himself in several times over the course of his life but opted against it.

Toronto police said advances in DNA technology helped them arrest Sutherland, a member of Fort Albany Cree Nation who was living in Moosonee, Ont.

“We were able to use investigative genetic genealogy to narrow down a suspect family,” lead homicide detective Sgt. Stephen Smith has said. “From there we were able to narrow down a suspect who is under arrest.”

Sutherland was originally charged with two counts of first-degree murder.

Smith said the positive DNA identification would be used to eliminate Sutherland as a suspect in other unsolved cases.

Like thousands of Indigenous children across Canada between the 1870s and the 1990s, Sutherland was forced to attend an Indian residential school. The judge, quoting from a Gladue report, said Sutherland went to St. Anne’s Residential school located about 1,200 km north of Toronto, where he was physically and sexually abused.

The report further noted his family moved to Toronto when Sutherland was a teenager.

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