More than 25 years after a young Columbus woman was found dead near Pataskala, Licking County authorities have made an arrest in her slaying.
Bonita Parker, 21, was found stabbed to death on Aug. 13, 1991, along Mill Street near state Route 16 in what is now a part of the city. The investigation at the time yielded potential suspects but lacked evidence needed to make an arrest, according to the Licking County Sheriff's Office.
On Feb. 27, authorities obtained an arrest warrant for Gustave "Gus" Sapharas, 72, of North Canton on a charge of murder in the case, according to a statement from the sheriff's office.
Parker's slaying fell within an 11-month period during which Sapharas was on parole from prison, according to Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections records. He was sentenced to prison in 1977 on charges of rape and carrying a concealed weapon in Summit County. Sapharas was paroled in November 1990 before he returned to prison on a parole violation in October 1991, just two months after Parker's body was found.
That parole violation stemmed from an assault on a female in Delaware County, said sheriff's office Capt. Chris Slayman.
Licking County detectives began reviewing Parker's case several years ago. In 2009, they resubmitted evidence from the case to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation. Sapharas' DNA was found to be associated with Parker's body, but no other evidence associated him with the homicide, and the case went cold again, according to the sheriff's office.
Over the past 15 months, detectives worked with BCI to research Sapharas' background and gather additional evidence connecting him to the crime. When detectives interviewed him at his residence nearly a year ago, he was "deceptive" and "admitted his dishonesty" while being questioned about Parker's death, the sheriff's office said.
Last year, Licking County Crime Stoppers offered a $1,000 award for information in the case, but that didn't yield any direct leads, Slayman said.
"Late 2015 is when we really started putting this case together, but it takes a lot of time to build this type of evidence and to make sure you have everything you need," he said.
Sapharas will be held in the Stark County jail and is expected to be extradited to Licking County in the coming days.
Though she didn't have a criminal record, authorities said Parker, who lived in the 1100 block of Highland Avenue in Victorian Village, was known to engage in prostitution in the Short North area, according to archives at The Columbus Dispatch.
Parker's body was found by a woman on her way to work that August morning in 1991, clad in a black bodysuit and sweatpants. An autopsy at the time showed Parker was killed by a single stab wound to her heart. Authorities believed Parker's body had been dumped in Licking County after she was killed.
In the more than 25 years since Parker's killing, countless detectives have worked to solve the slaying, said Chief Deputy Col. Chad Dennis.
"It's been a case that we've all been very involved in over the years," Dennis said. "Every detective that's ever come through our bureau in the last 20 years has looked through that file to try to put pieces together."
The Feb. 27 arrest in a case that's been cold for so long brought mixed emotions.
"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."