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Someone killed this Toronto woman 25 years ago — now Niagara police say it was a northern Ontario man

It’s been a quarter of a century since someone killed 26-year-old Nadine Gurczenski of Toronto. Now, the Niagara Regional Police Service (NRPS) says genetic genealogy has helped determine who did it.

Genetic genealogy used to find Nadine Gurczenski's killer, who was from northern Ontario

A woman smiling.

Warning: This story contains distressing details.

It's been a quarter of a century since someone killed 26-year-old Nadine Gurczenski of Toronto, and now the Niagara Regional Police Service (NRPS) says it knows who did it.

Staff Sgt. Andrew Knevel, who is in charge of the NRPS homicide unit, told CBC Hamilton that police used genetic genealogy to identify the killer as Joseph Archie (Raymond) Brousseau of New Liskeard in northern Ontario.

Brosseau was 34 and working as a truck driver when he killed Gurczenski, police say. He would have been charged with second-degree murder, but he died in 2017.

"We want to recognize that Nadine was an incredibly important part of our family. She meant more than a news headline," read a statement police shared from the Gurczenski family.

"She was a beautiful young woman inside and out, mother, wife, and now grandmother who had her whole life ripped away from her and everyone who loved her. She is very loved and missed every day by her whole family and we will always make sure her memory lives on forever."

'Every single investigative avenue was exhausted'

On May 8, 1999, police responded to reports of a partially dressed woman's body in a roadside ditch on May 8, 1999.

Officers found Gurczenski's body near Victoria Avenue near Eighth Avenue in Lincoln, a town in the Niagara Region.

Knevel said she died from strangulation.

Officers started to try to piece together where she came from, how she got to Niagara, who her killer was and a timeline.

"Every single investigative avenue was exhausted by the original investigators," Knevel said.

There were roadblocks early on, he said.

It took two weeks for police to identify her. They did so after sharing images of her face with the public.

Knevel said police believed a truck driver was Gurczenski's killer, leading officers to check truck stops between Niagara and Mississauga, where she worked.

Knevel added that officers uploaded the killer's DNA profile, which they had collected from the crime scene, to a national database and went to Interpol, working with police in the U.S., and the U.K., to try to crack the case. There were no DNA matches.

In 2006, police charged Michael Durant with first-degree murder after an exotic dancer's body was found in a desolate wooded area on the outskirts of Niagara Falls in January that year, and after the death of a sex-trade worker who disappeared in August 2003.

Durant was eventually convicted of one of those charges. When he was charged, police began investigating if he may have been responsible for the deaths of other sex-trade workers or exotic dancers.

Gurczenski worked at a strip club, but Knevel said police realized early on there was no connection to Durant.

New technology leads to breakthrough

As the years went on, the case went cold.

But in 2021, there was a new avenue to pursue, Knevel said.

NRPS started using genetic genealogy with the help of Toronto Police Service's Cold Case Unit, the Centre of Forensic Sciences, the chief coroner's office and Ontario's Ministry of the Attorney General.

Some of the DNA profile went to a laboratory in the U.S. that works in a similar way to services like AncestryDNA or 23andMe.

The lab created family trees and narrowed its focus on the DNA profile.

In 2023, it narrowed the search down to Brousseau.

Although he died years earlier, police were able to get a DNA sample from Brousseau and compared it with the DNA profile from the crime scene.

"It established a definitive link that he was our offender," Knevel said.

Brousseau never came up in the 25-year investigation and didn't seem to have any contact with Gurczenski before the day they met, Knevel said.

He said that through further investigation, police learned he also fit the initial profile.

"He was in fact a truck driver for many years; he went all throughout Canada and the United States," Knevel said.

"We also have some evidence that shows there were times he was known to frequent the Niagara Region."

Police believe Brousseau picked up Gurczenski from work and then killed her.

Genetic genealogy to be used in other cases

Knevel said Brousseau's DNA profile hasn't matched with any other unknown crime scenes uploaded to the national database.

He also said NRPS will use genetic genealogy in other cases.

"It's an incredible tool to try and provide justice for other families that feel like their cases aren't being looked at."

"I'm just grateful this technology has been able to provide some measure of closure to the family after all the years of heartache and horror that they've been through, not knowing who the offender is."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bobby Hristova

Reporter

Bobby Hristova is a journalist with CBC Hamilton. He reports on all issues, but has a knack for stories that hold people accountable, stories that focus on social issues and investigative journalism. He previously worked for the National Post and CityNews in Toronto. You can contact him at bobby.hristova@cbc.ca.

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Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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