POLITICS

A $50,000 reward offered to find mystery killer of Ontario nurse

08/28/2013 11:00 EDT | Updated 10/28/2013 05:12 EDT
TORONTO - It's been three years since someone killed Sonia Varaschin, left her Ontario home stained with blood and dumped her body in a wooded area.

While police have continually been chasing leads and sifting through evidence, just who was responsible for the 42-year-old's gruesome murder remains a mystery.

Now, in an attempt to trigger a break in the case, the provincial police is offering a $50,000 reward to anyone with information that leads to the apprehension of her killer.

"The public needs to know that the case continues, that it's actively being investigated and that we continue to look for their assistance," Ontario Provincial Police Det.-Insp Tracy Dobbin told The Canadian Press.

"We're obviously hoping that (the reward) is going to allow someone to come forward and provide us with information that will lead to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible."

Varaschin was reported missing on Aug. 30, 2010, after she failed to show up at work. Her blood-stained car was found in an alley the same day. Police also found blood inside and outside her home in Orangeville, Ont., about an hour northwest of Toronto.

A few days later remains discovered in a wooded area in Caledon, Ont., about 12 kilometres from Orangeville, were confirmed as Varaschin's.

The case drew national attention as investigators revealed the culprit likely left Varaschin's home covered in a significant amount of blood and used Varaschin's car to move the nurse's body to the wooded area where it was found.

Police added that whoever killed Varaschin was wearing men's size 10 or 11 boots sold only at Mark's Work Wearhouse. They asked the public to think back to anyone who may have come home with unexplained stains on his clothes or footwear.

Later, to narrow their list of suspects, police also asked for voluntary DNA samples from men who either knew Varaschin or came in contact with her before she died.

That sort of collaboration with the public remains an extremely important part of an investigation that has never waned in its intensity, said Dobbin, the lead case manager on Varaschin's file.

"There's still a dedicated team of investigators that are assigned solely to this investigation. That hasn't changed," she said.

"Every day we're closer, because we have a better grip on the information, and we're dealing with new information."

In the past three years, police have interviewed a number of witnesses, carried out background investigations on persons of interest and collected DNA samples from hundreds of people.

The case has also involved input from the FBI's Behavioural Analysis Unit, as well as experts from the RCMP and certain municipal police forces.

Investigators continue to receive tips on the case on a weekly basis and hope anyone with information or suspicions linked to Varaschin's killing will contact them, despite the time that has lapsed since her death, said Dobbin.

And while it may appear that the search for Varaschin's killer is moving slowly, a long investigation allows police to build an extremely solid case, she said.

"For the public it seems like an inordinate amount of time. But from the investigators' perspective, this time has allowed us to be very thorough with processing the information that has come through the investigation," Dobbin explained.

Having to deal with another year that has passed without finding Varaschin's killer, however, has been hard for those close to her.

"It still hurts a lot," said Marija Bojic, a close friend of Varaschin's who helped set up a nursing scholarship in her memory.

"I think the safety of everybody is shaken."

Police have said the person responsible for the crime likely knew Varaschin and the local area. But Bojic continues to be baffled by the case.

"She didn't have any high risk behaviours. There was no drugs involved, no night clubbing or staying out late and going to many places without telling anybody," she said. "She didn't have anyone that was a threat to her that she told me about...So it's a mystery to all of us."

Meanwhile, Varaschin's parents, although aware that police continue to work on their daughter's file, have been finding it hard to deal with the lack of public information, said Bojic.

"They are disturbed in a way, that there is no news whatsoever about her case," she said. "It's just really hard for them simply to not know."

In an effort to spur people to continue to help police track down her friend's killer, Bojic has been organizing annual fundraisers to raise money for the scholarship set up in Varaschin's name.

The efforts — which consist of a large Zumba dance gala — are a way to highlight Varaschin's love of dance and with her desire to help others, but they're also a way to keep Varaschin's murder from being forgotten.

"If we keep those voices always raised, it can help the investigation to continue to go on," said Bojic.

"Nothing we do will bring her back, but it would be nice for a person to be brought to justice."