The Ontario Provincial Police is going high-tech to try to solve a brutal 1988 homicide.
On the afternoon of Friday, Sept. 16, 1988, the body of Thera Dieleman was found in her Innerkip-area home on Oxford Road 29 in Blandford-Blenheim Township, approximately a 30-minute drive northwest of Brantford. The post-mortem examination revealed that the 80-year-old widow had been beaten and strangled but had put up a fight, potentially causing injuries to her attacker.
At a news conference on Tuesday, Aug. 28, OPP Detective Superintendent Ken Leppert of Criminal Investigation Services and Superintendent Catherine Yeandle-Slater, director of support for OPP West Region, unveiled new images created from DNA recovered from the murder scene with the goal of providing resolution to Mrs. Dieleman’s family.
Parabon Nano Labs, a DNA technology company, was contracted to create a composite sketch of what the killer may have looked like in 1988 and a second composite sketch of what the killer might look like today in an effort to reduce the current field of potential suspects.
“We believe using existing DNA evidence in this innovative way will ignite memories to help us bring a resolution to Thera Dieleman’s family and her community,” Leppert said. “We urge everyone to look closely at the sketches and photos and bring information on any aspect of this murder forward for investigation.”
The OPP hopes that sharing the sketches will draw out new information from the public. Police continue trying to locate the person or persons who would have been driving a flatbed farm truck seen in the driveway of the Oxford Road 29 home. The truck was described by witnesses as red with white lettering on the doors, dual rear wheels, and a black headboard protector behind the cab.
“Members of the OPP are committed to resolving this and other outstanding violent crime investigations in West Region to ensure it remains a great place to live, work and visit,” said Yeandle-Slater. “The safety of our communities relies upon our residents and the police working together and sharing information, regardless of the passage of time, to find a killer.”
A $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of Thera Dieleman’s killer remains available. Police urge those with information to call a dedicated toll-free tip line at 1-844-677-9414. To leave an anonymous tip, call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS).