Bonita Parker was just 21-years-old when she was found dead of a single stab wound along the roadway of Mill Street in Pataskala, Ohio. Parker had no criminal record, but police later learned that she had been working as a prostitute in Columbus’ Short North area. There were suspects, but none of them could be conclusively tied to the murder.
It’s been 26 years since that day and it would have seemed like Parker’s tragic death would never be solved. There was one man, in particular, that police had in mind since that late-summer morning of 1991, but the evidence against him was circumstantial at best.
Gustave “Gus” Sapharas was initially sent to prison in 1977 for charges including rape and carrying a concealed weapon in Summit County. Sapharas had been paroled in 1990. He would go back to prison in October of 1991 after he was charged for assaulting a woman in Delaware County, just two months after the discovery of Parker’s body along the roadside.
Several years ago, Ohio’s BCI collected up old cold cases from the area in hopes that advancements in DNA technology would help them close these cases once and for all. As luck would have it, the stabbing of Bonita Parker happened to be among them.
Sapharas’ DNA was found on Parker’s body. Police called Sapharas down for an interview, during which he lied about having any knowledge of Parker’s death. With no other evidence to tie Sapharas to the crime, the trail went cold again.
Police offered a $1,000 reward for information on the case, but even that wasn’t enough to draw out possible witnesses from that nigh those 26 years ago. For the past 15-months, investigators have been piecing together details from Sapharas’ life, hoping that there would be enough information to charge him in the case. Sapharas had been questioned again at his residence, where he admitted his dishonesty about his knowledge about Parker. Had it not been for Sapharas’ confession, the case may have continued to be cold.
Sapharas is currently being held in the Stark County Jail and will be extradited to Licking County within the coming days. Chief Deputy Col. Chad Dennis told The Columbus Dispatch that cases like this are always bittersweet.
“’In our world, it’s a good day when you make that arrest on a cold case,’ Dennis said. ‘(But her family is) reliving it again now.'”
Parker’s case is just one of many old cold cases that have been solved within the past year with the help of innovations in DNA technology. In late January of 2017, news broke that a drifter known as Bob Evans had been connected to at least four cold cases out of Maryland.