DNA evidence early focus of cold case trial
73 year old Gustave Sapharas, the man accused of fatally stabbing 20 year old Bonita Parker in 1991, takes notes during opening remarks at his trial Tuesday, January 30.(Photo: Jessica Phelps/The Advocate)Buy PhotoNEWARK A jury of seven women and five men began hearing evidence Tuesday afternoon against73 year old Gustave Sapharas, the man accused of fatally stabbing 21 year old Bonita Parker in 1991.
The trial began the day after attorneys for the prosecution and defense argued over whether the trial should take place at all.
Monday morning, Special Prosecutor Paul Scarsella filed a motion asking for a brief continuance of the trial to test a newly obtained DNA sample against evidence gathered in the case.
The sample is from a person who had been investigated as a suspectand had provided inconsistent statements as to his involvement with Parker and his alibi at the time of her death, according to court documents.
Sapharas’ attorney, Diane Menashe, opposed the continuance, arguing the state has had nearly 27 years to gather DNA samples from the possible suspect.
According to documents filed Monday, the state does not believe that person is a suspect at this point in time, but is still seeking to match the second male to unknown contributors of DNA found at the scene where Parker’s body was found in August 1991.
Buy PhotoAssistant Licking County Prosecutor Hawken Flanagan addresses a witness during the trial of Gustave Sapharas, who is accused of fatally stabbing 20 year old Bonita Parker in 1991 (Photo: Jessica Phelps/The Advocate)
Assistant Licking County Prosecutor Hawken Flanagan said in his opening statement that suspect will be testifying in the case.
Flanagan said Sapharas’ DNA was found underneath Parker’s fingernails and on her pantyhose and advances in DNA technology since 1991 allowed Sapharas to be identified.
“It isn’t too late to provide closure to Bonita’s family,” Flangan said. “It isn’t too late to hold Mr. Sapharas accountable.”
Diane Menashe, Sapharas’ attorney, said Sapharas has never wavered in his assertion he did not know Parker and had not been involved in her death.
“There are two (DNA) samples that aren’t Mr. Sapharas,” she said. “(DNA) doesn’t say when, how or why it got there.”
Much of Tuesday’s testimony focused on how Parker was found and the 1991 investigation. on Aug. 13, 1991 off the side of the roadway on Mill Street in the Pataskala area.
Parker died from a single stab wound to her chest.
Dr. Patrick Fardal, a retired forensic pathologist with the Franklin County Coroner’s Office, said the wound pierced Parker’s heart, causing her to bleed out internally.
Former Licking County Sheriff’s Office Captain Raymond Back testified Tuesday afternoon about the initial stages of the investigation, including the search for suspects.
Three people were identified in court as being potentially linked to Parker’s death, none of them Sapharas.
All three of those men were investigated to the point of being ruled out as suspects, Back testified.
Sapharas initially become a suspect in 2009, when the Licking County Sheriff’s Office had reopened the case with hopes of DNA testingproviding them with a suspect.
Sapharas was found to be a DNA contributor to evidence found on Parker’s body, but no other evidence tied him to her. As Parker was known to prostitute in the Columbus area, no charges were filed at that time.
The case again went cold until 2015, when further testing was done at the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
Sapharas was interviewed at his home in the Canton area in March 2016and he was arrested in February 2017.
Buy PhotoDiane Menashe, defense attorney for 73 year old Gustave Sapharas, returns to her seat after giving opening remarks at his trial Tuesday, January 30. (Photo: Jessica Phelps/The Advocate)