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Canada Windsor police solve five-decade-old murder of six-year-old girl

01:26  14 december  2019
01:26  14 december  2019 Source:   windsorstar.com

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Windsor police said Friday they have closed the book on one of Windsor ’s oldest cold cases — the kidnapping, savage beating, sexual assault, and murder of a six - year old girl that has baffled investigators for five decades .

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A veteran homicide cop fought back tears Friday as he described finally cracking one of Windsor’s oldest and most horrific cold cases — the kidnapping, sexual assault, savage beating and murder of six-year-old Ljubica Topic.

The terrible mystery, which stood out for its shocking barbarity, had baffled a succession of frustrated investigators over five decades.

“This case has been part of the fabric of this city for close to 50 years,” said lead investigator Det. Scott Chapman, who repeatedly fought to keep his emotions in check during a media conference.

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“I’ve talked to people who remember the effects it had on them, even if they were children. After it happened they weren’t allowed out of the house.

“It had a tremendous impact. Parents were concerned — is this person still out there? And for 48 and a half years, we didn’t know. But now we do. We know exactly who it was.”

Ljubica Topic was snatched in May 1971 as she played outside her Drouillard Road home. Police discovered her lifeless remains — face and body covered in blood — early the next morning.

While police now know who the killer is, they won’t reveal his identity. Chapman said police are keeping the killer’s name a secret for privacy reasons, because he’s dead and they can’t charge him. In the interest of keeping his identity a secret, police also would not say exactly when he died, except that it was “recently.”

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The man was 22 years old when he took Ljubica. He lived in the same neighbourhood as her family, but Chapman said he was a stranger to them.

The perpetrator also spent time out west during the 1970s before finally settling there.

Chapman said investigators don’t believe he is responsible for other attacks in the Windsor area, but there is the potential that police elsewhere will look at him for crimes in their jurisdictions.

a person posing for the camera:  Windsor murder victim Ljubica Topic, who was sexually assaulted and severely beaten in 1971. (Handout / Windsor Star) © Image courtesy of the Topic family Windsor murder victim Ljubica Topic, who was sexually assaulted and severely beaten in 1971. (Handout / Windsor Star)

At one point, police had more than 500 persons of interest in the Topic case. The actual killer was never one of them.

He was never even on investigators’ radar until a new lead in the last several months put him there.

Chapman would not reveal what the lead was but said the case was ultimately solved with a DNA test for which police received the results on Monday.

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He said doubling the reward to $20,000, which police also did Monday before getting the DNA results, was not a factor in solving the case.

After the results of the test, Chapman personally notified the Topic family.

“Probably the most significant moment in my career,” said Chapman, again struggling to find his words. “It was very meaningful.”

The Topic family sent a letter to police expressing its “immense gratitude” for the investigators’ “strategic vision and enduring efforts.”

Police Chief Pam Mizuno read the letter aloud during the media conference.

“Your compassionate service represents the best of humanity. You have done yourselves, your profession, the community, and justice proud.

“We never gave up hope, and you never gave up. Our family owes you a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”

Mizuno said Friday’s announcement was “truly about the victim.

“Ljubica Topic was a little girl who had her entire life ahead of her,” she said. “That life was stolen and it can never be returned.

“This brings resolution to a family that deserved answers. It brings answers to a community that has always wondered what happened to an innocent little girl on our streets.”

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While elated at solving the murder, it is bittersweet for the officers who dedicated years to the case, knowing the killer escaped justice. Chapman, who picked up the case in 2015, would have liked to have put the man in handcuffs.

“We held that hope for a long time,” he said. “Obviously, that’s what we do. We like to catch people and bring them to justice, and we wanted to do that for the family.

“But given the age of this case, we recognized that this was a very real possibility. I think the focus had to become, at that point, let’s get some answers. And we did in the end.”

It was a crime of depravity that police in Windsor at the time had not yet seen the likes of.

“It was a very different animal,” said Chapman. “It kind of became the Holy Grail of cases. It was handled with caution by every investigator from the time it happened until today, recognizing the incredible significance of losing a six-year-old.”

Ljubica was murdered on May 14, 1971, about five years after her family moved to Windsor from Yugoslavia. She and her eight-year-old brother, Michael, were playing outside around dusk in a parking lot near their home at 1290 Drouillard Rd.

Ljubica’s mother, Paula Topic, said in 2015 the little girl ran inside the house asking for a candy.

Her mom gave her one, and Ljubica ran back outside. That was last time her mother saw her.

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A little while later, Paula Topic called her children inside. Michael was there, but Ljubica was gone.

Michael told her a man had approached the kids from a restaurant across the street. Ljubica was lured away with the promise of $8 for help with a job. She walked away holding hands with her killer.

The man gave Michael a dime to ride his bike in the other direction. He last saw his sister between 8:30 and 9 p.m.

One of the biggest manhunts in Windsor history ensued. The officers and civilians frantically scouring the area didn’t know their search was hopeless from the start.

Police believe she was likely attacked and killed or left to die an hour after she disappeared.

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Around 1 a.m. on May 15, an officer scanning yards with a flashlight found her behind the home at 1690 Hickory Road. The killer left Ljubica’s battered body near a garage, not far from a gate to the back alley.

She was beaten so viciously that her right leg was broken and her teeth were smashed. Police found two of them in the dirt near her body.

In April 2015, police revealed for the first time they had found a man’s broken front tooth near Ljubica’s body. Investigators said at the time they thought the tooth could be the killer’s, and potentially the puzzle piece that could finally solve the decades-old mystery.

Chapman said Friday the first officers on the case actually found several sources of DNA, the items collected at a time when the technology to test them for genetic fingerprints didn’t even exist.

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“This man’s DNA matched separate sources of DNA from the crime scene,” he said. “Based on the nature of the DNA and where it was located, we are certain that he is the person responsible.”

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a black and white photo of a man:  The body of Ljubica Topic is shown being removed from the crime scene. © files The body of Ljubica Topic is shown being removed from the crime scene.   a black sign with white text above a snow covered street:  This is the alley behind the back yard on Hickory Road where the battered body of sex-slaying victim Ljubica Topic was found early this morning on May 15, 1971. © files This is the alley behind the back yard on Hickory Road where the battered body of sex-slaying victim Ljubica Topic was found early this morning on May 15, 1971.   a house with trees in the background:  The rear of victim Ljubica Topic’s home is pictured. It is the last place she was seen before slaying. © Files The rear of victim Ljubica Topic’s home is pictured. It is the last place she was seen before slaying.

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