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038 - The Murder of Sonia Varaschin

[Case Evidence]

                Sonia Marie Jeanne Varaschin was born to Atillio and Michele Varaschin in 1968 and was their eldest daughter.  Tragically, Sonia had been preceded in birth by an older brother, named Vivien, but he lost his life when he was involved in a car accident as an infant.  Her parents would go on to have two other children, a younger brother named Viv, in honor of their deceased first born, and a younger sister named Nadia.  The Varaschin family were very close, with Atillio and Michele looking closely after their children and wanting not only to protect them, but the best for them.  Perhaps as a result of losing a child previously, their sense of how limited time can be was heightened, and as a result, the family spent a great deal of time together sharing activities and laughs. 

                Sonia grew up in Bolton, Ontario, Canada, the most populous community in the town of Caledon, approximately fifty kilometers northwest of Toronto.  The entire area of Bolton only covers 11.15 square kilometers, or 4.31 square miles, but boasts a population of nearly 26,000.  At the time of Sonia’s birth, Bolton was still a town on the horizon of expansion but throughout the 1970s and 80’s, the urban expansion kicked into high gear and soon housing developments began sprouting up.  Suffice it to say, the town slowly grew along with Sonia as she could see what was once a quiet and casual community becoming more of a urban environment with industrial expansion in the south.  For the Varaschin family, it was a picturesque location to live, and there was no better town to raise your children.

                Sonia was a loving child, described by friends and family as a deeply caring person with soulful eyes and a welcoming demeanor.  She loved to laugh, though she loved to make others laugh even more so.  Sonia’s mother, Michele, speaks fondly of her daughter and described her as someone who loved the outdoors, adventure, and especially skiing.  Michele would later say “She was always moving, always busy.  She would ski 365 days a year if she could.”  She was free spirited and fun loving in her youth, something that would carry into her adult life.  She loved to travel, having gone to places such as Italy, Guadalupe, Florida and Whistler, Ontario where she very much enjoyed their ski resorts.  She had plans of visiting Argentina, though those plans would never come to fruition.

                When Sonia wasn’t gliding down the snow crusted slopes or traveling the world and satiating her zest for life, she was spending as much time as she could with friends and family.  Sonia loved to dance, and at a young age, was enrolled in dancing classes and, well into her adult life, was always excited to step out onto the dancefloor and twirl around.  A friend, Jim Barber, would later say “I always thought of her as a very smart woman who loved music and dance.  She was a tiny little thing but she was full of passion and a zest for life.”  At home, she was peaceful and thoroughly enjoyed cooking, though her mother would joke “She could cook, but she couldn’t use a toaster” later saying that every time she tried she always burned the toast. 

                Sonia’s life choses in regard to her career were as eclectic and free spirited as her personality.  Early on she had a high interest in fashion and wished to pursue a job in design or selling.  For a time she worked in Toronto, selling wedding dresses, and later moved on to be a buyer at Canada’s Wonderland, a theme park located in Vaughan, Ontario.  She would later follow a friend to Jasper, Alberta, continuing her pursuit of fashion but there had always been a calling in her when it came to the medical field.  According to her mother, Sonia had struggled as a child, watching her grandfather slowly succumb to cancer.  Sonia had been incredibly close with her grandfather, and the pain of his loss stayed with her for life.  It fed into her empathetic nature, her desire to help others, and somewhere during her time working in the realm of fashion, this passion was reawakened within her. 

                Once Sonia had decided that the medical field was where she truly longed to be, she set her focus and wouldn’t be distracted.  She went on to attend Humber College in Toronto and set her mind to her studies.  A hard working student, she entered the nursing program and was determined not only to successfully complete it, but to excel.  She would go on to graduate with honors and was quickly recruited to join Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children where she began working in neurology.  During her time at the hospital, Sonia would move from Neurology, to the burn ward and then finally to the cancer unit.  After her time with the Hospital was up, Sonia moved on to Southlake Regional Health Center in Newmarket, later purchasing a townhouse in Orangeville, a town very similar to Bolton in terms of land mass and population and located in South Central Ontario and approximately an hours drive from downtown Toronto.  Sonia lived there alone, with her cat, whom she called Jazzy.

                Although Sonia’s job was incredibly challenging, and took an emotional toll, she found her purpose in helping others and was dedicated to supporting children who were living out their last days.  Michele would later say “It’s very tough work, when you see a baby whose not going to make it, but she just loved her work.”  Sonia never married, nor had children of her own, and in a way, her patients and their families became her family.  Over her time there, she received a steady stream of thank you cards and took pictures with the children she took care of.  In her Townhouse, the photos and cards covered her refrigerator and she carried each and every patient in her heart and mind, no matter where she went.  She felt it was her duty to do all that she could for them, and to make their time as painless and joyful as possible.  Sonia’s brother, Viv, would later state “She’s made a difference in the lives of so many little kids.  She always took that extra step.” 

                For a woman with so much love and care to give, she had no one to share it with.  That was, until one busy weekend, while shopping at a Farmer’s market, she met a man who had recently moved to Canada from the United Kingdom.  His name was Ian Rushton, and almost immediately, they hit it off and began dating.  Both had an interest in cooking and Rushton has sorrowfully, yet nostalgically, told a story about how he and Sonia would compete with meals.  On one particular night, the two were competing to see who could prepare the best meal and Sonia was tasked with making dessert.  She decided on chocolate cake, but forgot it in the oven a little too long.  The cake came out as a dark chocolate rock, and not one to give up so easily, she ran out to the store and purchased something delicious, bringing it to Rushton as her own.

                By 2010, Sonia was forty-two years old and living a life she loved.  The beautiful nurse stood approximately 5’2” tall and weighed approximately 125 pounds, her hair was dark brown with light brown highlights in it.  Her smile was radiant, and attracted attention from many men but she only had eyes for one.  Her relationship with Rushton was developing well, her career was moving forward and her family was incredibly proud of her.  All things seemed to be lining up just as she had dreamed, but everything would change in August of that year.  Although Sonia’s job was going well, she had an incident with one of her supervisors that would be a point of conflict.  According to Michele, Sonia had changed the dose on a medication prescribed for a patient.  Allegedly, her supervisor called her into the office for a discussion that got heated.  Sonia was questioned as to why she would change a prescribed dose without permission or authorization from the doctor.  From this point forward, Michele claims that the workplace became tense and hostile.  She would later state “She would come home crying every night.  She felt she was being treated like a criminal.  She couldn’t take it anymore.  I wanted to hire a lawyer, but she refused.”

                Sonia also had another issue with Southlake Regional Health Center.  A few months earlier, Sonia had injured her shoulder while working and there was a back and forth debate between Southlake and the Worker’s Safety and Insurance board.  Sonia had taken a few weeks off to heal and was due disability payments, but they weren’t coming in.  Strangely, Sonia had a very important meeting to attend on Monday, August 30th, 2010, to discuss the payments and the injury but Sonia would never arrive, she would go missing within the hours leading up to Monday.  All of this would ultimately lead to Sonia leaving her job at Southlake.  When reached for comment, Tammy LaRue, a spokesperson for Southlake claimed that the Human Resources department was unaware of any issues between Sonia and the staff, as well as that Sonia wasn’t “under any disclipinary action.  She left on her own terms.”

                Sonia’s issues were not only linked to her job.  Possibly as a result of her stress at work, new neighbors became another point of contention.  According to Michele, some young men had rented a townhouse unit a few doors down from her.  Being that they were younger, and living the fun life, they would often have loud music going late into the night and had parties would could become rowdy and disruptive.  Sonia had confronted the group several times, but they didn’t seem to be receptive to her complaints.  While they would tell her that they’d try to keep it down, the issues continued.  It was difficult for Sonia who worked long hours and needed her sleep, when she could get it.  When the issue continued, Sonia took action.  Michele later said “She was a nurse who worked shifts, so she called the police on them several times.”

                On Sunday, August 29th, 2010, Sonia paid a visit to her parents home in Bolton.  She had come to sit down and have lunch with her family, and she was excited:  she had gotten a new job working for a pharmaceutical company.  The only string was that, for this new job, she needed to be bilingual, speaking both English and French.  Sonia spoke French, though it had been a while and she had some brushing up she needed to do.  Serious about her plans, and wanting to nail the new job with the same drive and determination with which she had tackled her previous ones, she wasn’t going to be staying too long.  Her brother, Viv, tried to convince her to push her studies off a bit and come out sea-dooing.  As a note, I had no idea what sea-dooing was but it appears to be what I’ve always know as jet skiing.  Sonia turned down the invite, again focused on getting her study of French further along. 

                While inside, Sonia spoke with her mother for a while.  Her father went outside and took it upon himself to wash and clean her White Toyota Carolla while it was parked in the driveway.  The conversation was light, with Sonia’s usual sense of humor present.  While the previous weeks had been filled with stress, she seemed to be rebounding and was excited about her future prospects.  Michele would later say “She seemed very happy.”  As the day progressed, nothing seemed out of the ordinary and Sonia was in high spirits once again.  She kissed her parents goodbye and told them she’d talk to them soon, likely the next day after her meeting at Southlake regarding her disability payments.  She drove away, but neither she nor her family knew that they would never see her alive again.  Sometime from the moment Sonia left, to the next morning when she failed to arrive for her meeting, she would mysteriously vanish.

                If nothing else, Sonia was punctual.  When she failed to arrive for her important meeting on the morning of Monday, August 30th, there was concern.  It wasn’t a typical day, and this meeting was prominent in her mind.  No one could wrap their head around why she would miss it, assuming possibly car trouble or some scheduling conflict but Sonia also wasn’t the type to not call if that were the case.  There seems to be a little bit of debate about how Sonia was officially reported missing, with some stating that her family was contacted and they reported her missing, though there doesn’t seem to be any evidence to support this.  In fact, the time at which Sonia was officially considered missing may actually revolve around a grisly discovery made on that morning, at 10am.

                On Monday morning, a woman was walking through an alley way which runs parallel to Broadway.  The alley crosses behind several businesses as well as behind the Town Hall.  According to reports of the time, the woman came across Sonia White Toyota Carolla and immediately called police when she said blood on the bumper.  Officers from the Ontario Provincial Police arrived on the scene and were very disturbed by what they discovered.  Upon arrival, police found the vehicle parked with both the front doors wide open, as well as the trunk.  Authorities began processing the scene for clues and information, doing a full sweep through Sonia’s vehicle, though at this point, they were well aware that they had a crime on their hands.  The blood indicated that something horrible had happened, and while they were sweeping for evidence, they ran the vehicles information.  Once gaining Sonia’s identification and address, officers were dispatched to her townhouse.

                Upon arriving to the Spring Street complex where Sonia lived, about a five minute walk from where he car was discovered, investigators quickly noticed blood on her front step.  Upon gaining entry to the townhouse they found a bloody scene inside, though it was noted that there were no signs of forced entrance which led authorities to believe that whoever had been responsible for the attack and disappearance was likely someone that knew Sonia, or that she would trust enough to allow inside of her townhouse.  Investigators would later described the townhouse as containing “a large quantity of blood.”  Her home would officially become listed as the second crime scene, with more officers arriving to process evidence and sweep for clues.  While this was being done, others went out into the complex to speak to neighbors.  They were asked if they knew Sonia and if they had any information, specifically if they’d heard anything Sunday night.

                Neighbors were shocked by the incident, though most of them had no information to provide to assist investigators.  Joe Luz, a neighbor who knew Sonia in passing and would say hello to her when he saw her stated “This lady never made problems here, she was a nice lady.  I’m scared, because here, there’s normally no problems.”  The consensus was the same throughout most of their interviews, Sonia was a nice and polite woman who mostly kept to herself and never caused a problem.  Finally, officers spoke to Steffan Lundy who did report some odd sounds from Sunday night.  In a statement to the press, Lundy said “I was sleeping and pretty much woke up to car tires squealing, and yelling.”  Police suspected foul play from the outset, though they didn’t know whether or not they were investigating a kidnapping or a murder.

                Sonia’s family were contacted, and officers went to their home to speak with them about Sonia.  They hoped to find any information they could about someone who may have had a grudge against her and whether or not Sonia was in fear of anyone.  Police then made a public plea, looking for assistance in the search for Sonia.  When speaking to the media, Constable Jonathan Beckett was asked whether or not Sonia had been murdered.  He responded “We’re still looking for her, we don’t want to speculate about what has happened to Sonia.  We’re keeping our minds open to all the possibilities but our primary focus right now is to find her.”  Orangeville Police Chief Joseph Tomei, also present at the briefing, added “We’re hopeful the search comes to good fruition for us, but it is suspicious.”  Authorities answered more questions and were asked if this was personal, or random.  They responded that it was too early to determine.”
                Police tracking dogs were brought in for a grid search which included the areas around Sonia’s townhouse, the location of her vehicle as well as swampy areas outside of town.  Helicoptors were also brought in and most available officers, totaling close to 100, were utilized to try and locate Sonia.  Despite their efforts, after discovering her blood car and the crime scene of her townhouse, authorities made no headway in the first twenty-four hours.  Officers pleaded with the public to come forward with any information they may have had, regardless of how insignificant they considered it to be. 

                By the next day, police were continuing their search.  Officers were sent to speak to Sonia’s boyfriend, Ian Rushton, though he was questioned as a part of their routine they stated that he was quickly ruled out as a suspect.  Chief Tomei, when asked about Rushton being a suspect stated “At present time there are no suspects in this investigation.  For all intents and purposes, it probably is a random act.” 

During their investigation, they pulled video from a surveillance camera in the area where Sonia’s car was found.  At approximately 4am, a North American passenger van was seen passing through the vicinity.  Authorities released the footage to the media and requested that the driver come forward as he could have information relevant to the case.  According to police, the drive called and spoke with them but hadn’t seen anything which could assist them with their case.  Now forty-eight hours into their search for Sonia, fliers were being circulated with her image and physical description but no new information was discovered.  He former co-workers at Southlake were spoken to, though they didn’t appear to have any helpful information either.  Early on, investigators were frustrated by the disappearance.  Despite a large quantity of evidence showing that a violent crime had been committed, they had nowhere to go.

While police had suspected foul play from the outset, forensic testing confirmed their suspicions and on Wednesday, September 1st, police officially declared her a victim of foul play in the public.  Detective Inspector, Mark Pritchard, when asked about Sonia’s chance of being alive, stated on Thursday, September 2nd, “At this point, based on the evidence, we really have to expect the worst.”  Pritchard also suggested that the evidence they processed was slowly moving them away from the idea that this was a random attack and that, more likely, Sonia had been victimized by someone she knew.  Officers brought in cadaver dogs for their search, as well as experts in criminal profiling.  Police issued a statement to the public asking them to check their property for anything suspicious and out of the ordinary.  According to reports of the time, Sonia’s family was told by authorities that they may need to brace for a bad outcome.

Sonia’s friends and family began speaking out on social media with her brother, Viv, posted on the Blue Mountain Resort Facebook page “We are in search of one of the best skiers, Sonia Varaschin, my sister, went missing.  Please look around your properties and report anything strange.  Miss and love you, Sonia.”  Friends created a Facebook group to bring awareness to Sonia’s disappearance and help spread the word.  Sonia’s case was garnering a lot of attention, though despite the outpouring of support and spotlight, no one had any information which could help investigators.  It was as if Sonia had simply vanished from the face of the earth and no one was the wiser.  For authorities, it became more frustrating with each day.  They knew someone had the answers, but who that person was, they couldn’t begin to imagine.  On top of that, they couldn’t develop a motive for the crime.  They couldn’t locate anyone who had anything negative to say about Sonia and from all of their investigation they found her to be a kind and polite woman who mostly kept to herself.  Not the type to cause waves, and certainly not someone who was hanging out with troubled individuals.

On Friday, Police spoke once again to the media, this time reading a statement from Sonia’s family.  The statement, in part, reads “She is a young, active, hardworking and caring individual who deserves the opportunity to continue making a difference in this world and her community.  We miss her dearly and are pleading for her safe return.”

Inspector Prichard discussed the blood found at the scene and asked for anyone who had seen someone with blood on their clothes to come forward.  Prichard stated “When the culprit left the scene he was covered in a significant amount of blood.  We expect that following this crime the offender would have had a significant change in his behavior.”  In addition to this information, authorities stated that a trail of blood had been outside of Sonia’s townhouse and that, among other items, beige colored bedding, including a fitted sheet and comforter, were missing from the home.  When asked about a possible suspect, Prichard responded “It’s somebody that she knows, or knew her or at least was familiar with her.”  It was suggested that the suspect would have used Sonia’s own car to transport her and likely drove elsewhere, before abandoning the vehicle in Orangeville.  The search for Sonia continues, utilizing both ground and air methods as well as mounted police from both the Ontario Provinical Police and the Toronto police.

Sonia’s family struggled with her disappearance, and as each day passed, they became more and more concerned that they were never going to see her again.  They tried to maintain hope that she would be returned or found alive, but even police had told them that this was becoming less and less likely.  The family didn’t speak publically very much, choosing to take time to focus on the search and keep their feelings private.  Sadly, their hope would be shattered on Sunday, September 5th, just one week after Sonia went missing.  A man who had been out walking his dog in a rural area 13 kilometers east of Orangeville near Beech Grove Side Road and Mountainview Road, in the town of Caledon, approximately a ten minute drive from Sonia’s townhouse, discovered human remain and phoned authorities.  Though they would not comment on whether or not it was Sonia that day, it was later announced publically when an autopsy confirmed her identity.  Sonia had been the victim of a homicide.  A press release from the Ontario Provincial Police said “Police investigators believe the person or persons responsible for Sonia’s murder used her vehicle to move her body from her residence to the wooded area.  The family has been notified, and they have requested privacy as they deal with the news of Sonia’s death.”  It was later revealed that, when discovered, Sonia’s body had been wrapped up in the bedding missing from her home.

Upon release of Sonia’s body, her family held a memorial service for her at Holy Family Roman Catholic Church and ultimately, she was cremated, wearing her dancing shoes.  Her ashes are kept in a decorative urn, which looks more like a vase, beside a picture of Sonia.  In a later interview, Sonia’s mother Michele would cradle the urn in her arms, and painfully say “She’s always with me.  My biggest hope is that they catch the killer before I die.”  At the time, Sonia’s father was too broken hearted to speak about the tragic murder, and very much so still today, struggles to address the topic.

Several days later, Police spoke to the media about the murder.  It was at this time that they stated they believed that they believed the suspect was a male because they had found a size 10 or 11 bloody work boot print at one of the scenes, though they did not specific whether it was the car, her home or the location where her remains were recovered.  According to investigators, the brand of boot was either a Wind River or Dakota sold exclusively at Mark’s Work Warehouse.  They again specified that the suspect would have had blood on his clothing and may have thrown his boots out after committing the crime.  When asked about the suspect and whether or not they believed he was local, Prichard responded “We believe that Sonia’s killer is very familiar with Orangeville, with the outskirts of Orangeville, Sonia’s neighborhood, Sonia’s townhouse and potentially Sonia herself.”  They specificed that they were looking for only one suspect and found nothing to indicate any other involvement from someone else.  Authorities also suggested that they suspect Sonia may have been being watched or stalked in the weeks leading up to her murder.

For the next several months, the case was rather quiet.  Investigators continued their efforts, but little else was discovered.  The suspect remains unknown and the media began to grill authorities about other information such as whether or not there had been sexual assault, if DNA had been found, but police chose not to reveal this information.  They also did not reveal the cause of death, which Sonia’s family told the media that even they didn’t know.  For many, authorities were choosing to leave them in the dark and they couldn’t be sure why.  Police felt it was important to the integrity of the investigation to not reveal too much detail.  It was also announced that there was a $50,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

Then, in December of 2010, four months after Sonia was murdered, investigators took part in an unprecedented three day meeting.  The meeting involved criminal profilers from the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit.  They were joined by profilers from the Ontario Provincial Police as well as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, solely to focus on Sonia’s murder.  A female professional photographer was attacked at her home, just a five minute drive from Sonia’s townhouse, and hospitalized shortly before this meeting.  The media attempted to draw connections between her attack and Sonia’s murder, noting that both women of similar age, with Sonia being 42 and the other being 44, as well as both being small framed women with brown hair. Authorities disagreed about the cases being related, stating “There has been no connection established.  They are being investigated independently.” 

A profile was developed of the likely suspect, though police would not share much information about it.  Prichard didn’t want to reveal too many details, feeling that the specificity may make witnesses less likely to come forward if they disagreed with a particular trait.  According to Prichard, they found no links between this crime and any previous crimes.  Though he wouldn’t reveal great details, he did say it was likely that in the time after Sonia’s murder, the suspect may have increased alcohol or drug use, seemed irritable, anxious or agitated, moved from the area or had limited social interactions, had unexplained absences from work, school or missed appointments and may have displayed other unusual behavior.  Authorities also felt that the suspect may have been familiar with the area where Sonia’s body was found due to recreational activities, work or illegal activities.

A few months later, in February of 2011, a new investigator was put in charge of the case:  Otario Provincial Police Detective Inspector Andy Karski, a man who had been publically hailed as a hero by the mayor of Caledon just a few years earlier.  Karski came in with a lot of zest and vigor, looking to stir things up and to shake the case up.  Though he wouldn’t say much initially, outside of being determined to solve it, by May of 2011, he would announce what he called a “new phase” in the investigation.  According to Karski, Sonia had been visiting dating websites in the weeks leading up to her murder.  The investigation was going to begin digging into her activities on several matchmaking websites, including Plenty of Fish.  While Sonia had a boyfriend at the time of her murder, who authorities cleared of any involvement, investigators found much of her activity to have been prior to dating Rushton.  However, they did say she was on it within the weeks before her murder and that she and Rushton had been having an on and off again relationship at the time.  Danielle Preddie had used Plenty of Fish at the time and told reporters that he’d called the police to say he saw Sonia on there prior to her murder but was informed that they already knew this and were investigating. 

Investigators said it was possible that Sonia had met her killer through a dating app, and that this was an avenue they were very focused on.  Karski also revealed a new piece of evidence, that DNA had been discovered at Sonia’s townhouse.  In a statement, Constable Peter Leon said “We have your DNA and it’s only a matter of time before we find out who you are.”  Whether the DNA was discovered in blood, semen, saliva or some other form was not revealed at the time.  Police said they had been canvassing a group of men for voluntary DNA testing, especially former co-workers.  The Canadian Civil Liberties Union spoke out against this, saying it was coercive and would make people feel that they were criminals if they didn’t volunteer.  Constable Leon responded “If you have nothing to hide, then its your obligation to provide that DNA sample.  We respect the fact that someone may wish to say no, but each and every person who is approached has a moral obligation to participate.”

That same month, in May of 2011, Michele Varaschin was interviewed in the Toronto Star.  During this interview she revealed that the family had still not been told how exactly Sonia had been killed, though she did know that the bulk of the blood found in the Townhouse was located in Sonia’s bedroom.  Michele stated “How did he kill her?  I don’t know, but I want to know.”  When asked about the idea that there was no forced entry, Michele suggested that this didn’t necessarily mean that Sonia knew her killer.  She speculated that Sonia could have opened her door to let her cat back in when the suspect could have forced his way inside.  There is one thing that Michele believes for sure, though, Sonia was not someone who would be taken easily, saying “She would have fought him.”  Michele also commented on the location in which Sonia’s remains were recovered, wondering why the killer found it necessary to dispose of her in that way rather than leaving her in the townhouse.  An answer she is still seeking.

Slowly, days began transforming into weeks, weeks into months and months into years.  Little new information became available, though investigators were clear that they were still working on the case and determined to find the responsible party.  Despite the possession of DNA, three different crime scenes and a load of forensic evidence, authorities were getting no closer to solving the mystery.  In 2012, the Registered Nurses Foundation of Ontario put together an annual scholarship named after Sonia, which would be awarded to an undergraduate nursing student who demonstrates leadership and a passion for making a difference.  That same year, Inspector Karski spoke publicly, saying that the case was by no means cold and that they had thus far collected over 600 DNA samples.  He stated “We designed this DNA collection process in concentric circles around her life and the geography.”  When asked if they were going to solve the case, Karski responded “I am confident we will reach a successful conclusion.  I just can’t say when.”

Two years later, in August of 2014, some four years after Sonia’s murder, police released a new piece of evidence.  While previous surveillance footage had shown a van in the area where Sonia’s car was found, that had led to no new leads or information.  In yet another piece of footage, authorities showed two men hanging out in a Gazebo near the sight where the car was found.  The men exit the area at approximately 6am.  Authorities wanted very much to speak with the men, though they had no way to identify them.  Sometime later, though it is not clear when, the two men came forward to speak with investigators.  They were unable to provide any information which could help in the investigation and they were later cleared of having any involvement in the murder.

Over the next few years, the case continued to be looked into, though nothing new was discovered, or at least nothing new was told to the public.  The case changed hands from Inspector Karski, and ultimately sits now under the domain of Detective Inspector Shawn Glassford.  Nearly seven years after the murder, in August of 2017, Glassford was interviewed by the Orangeville Citizen, a local paper.  Glassford told the paper that they had followed up on over 1,000 tips which they had received since 2010, though none of them lead to a resolution.  According to him, its one of those cases where they just need that one piece of information or evidence to break it open.  When asked if they were going to solve it, or if he believed they could, Glassford responded “Absolutely.  We want to solve this case.  We want to solve this for Sonia’s family, and we want to solve this for the community.  Is it frustrating?  Yes.  Is it troubling?  Yes.  Notwithstanding that, we want results.  We want to bring whoever is responsible for this to justice.  That is our goal.”

Glassford is certain that the answers will be found, but he has made it clear that there are others who have information that could provide them with the ability to find the answers.  He stated “I think the public is the key in this case, they’re the key in any case.  This isn’t historical, this is seven years, but in any case, you need the public.  Somebody out there knows, whether it be a girlfriend, wife.  Somebody has information they may not even think is important.  Pick up the phone, let us be the ones to decide whether or not its important.”  Glassford went on to explain that they remained in possession of DNA evidence, though it had yet to find a match.  He then revealed that they were hopeful that advances in technology could help and that the DNA was being examined at the Center for Forensic Sciences.  He also reiterated that authorities believe the man responsible is a local, and likely knew Sonia, stating “Do I believe this is a random act?  No.  I don’t believe that for a second.  I wouldn’t think this was someone just wandering through town.  Whether it was the area, Sonia or a combination of those things, theres knowledge there from whoever did this.”

In September of 2017, Terry Tremble appealed a court ruling which found that he was the sole person responsible for the murder of his wife, Adrienne Roberts, in 2010.  Trembles appeal alleged that Adrienne had been murdered, not by Tremble, but by the same man who had murdered Sonia Varaschin and attacked photographer Shelley Loder.  Tremble’s lawyer argued that the crimes were strikingly similar, but ultimately, the judge was having none of it.  Ontario Court of Appeal Justice Karen M. Weiler wrote in her decision “It is mere speculation on the part of the defense that the same individual could have committed the Varaschin and Loder crimes.  Furthermore, no nexus between these crimes and the Roberts murder has ever been shown.”

There is a rift which developed between authorities and the Varaschin family over the years.  The family felt that they were needlessly kept in the dark, that the police botched the investigation and that they waited too long to release information or post a reward for information.  Michele would later state “To this day we know nothing, I don’t believe they should have the right to keep a family in a situation like that.”  The community is somewhat divided, with some feeling investigators have done they best they could, and other’s taking the family’s side.  Regardless of where the opinion falls, over seven years have passed since Sonia Varaschin was violently murdered in her townhouse.  Over those years, investigators have switched positions, evidence has been released and DNA has been discovered and yet we are no closer to an answer today.  For a crime with such a plethora of evidence, many feel it should have been solved long ago.

As is often the case in a crime like this, multiple theories have sprung up, suggested by the family, by the police and by online investigators who have been following the story since 2010.  There are three theories which are generally discussed in connection with the murder of Sonia Varaschin:

The first theory alleges, despite the statements of police, that Sonia may have been the victim of a random act of violence.  Some have argued that she could have been spotted by someone earlier in the day, could have been the target of a home invasion or may have even found herself exposed to a brutal killer when opening her door that night to allow her cat back in.  Proponents of this theory argue that investigator’s tunnel vision on a possible personal connection flawed the case and could be the very reason it has gone unsolved for all of these years.

The second theory is that Sonia may have been the victim of a serial killer.  In the time around her murder, several other murders and attacks occurred in the area such as that of Shelley Loder.  In the years since, more bodies have been found, leading many to speculate that Sonia may have only been one of many.  Supporters of this theory believe it’s possible that the killer may travel through Orangeville and select victims at random, or possibly follow potential victims home.  On the other hand, authorities have argued that there is no connection between Sonia’s murder and any other known crimes.

The third and final theory is that Sonia may have been stalked and murdered by someone she knew.  The list of suspects spreads out, moving from former boyfriends to co-workers to men she may have chatted with on dating apps.  Authorities firmly believe that, at a minimum, the killer knew Sonia, whether or not she knew him.  Further, they have speculated that this may be the reason the killer was able to gain access to her Townhouse that night without the need of forced entry.  For many, this is the theory which receives the most support and they argue that the evidence follows strongly with this belief.

The murder of Sonia Varaschin has remained unsolved for just over seven years.  During that time, her family has had to accept the loss of their daughter, sister and niece.  For a family which had already tasted the bitter tragedy of losing a child, this came as another devastating blow.  Michele Varaschin remains outspoken, and strongly desires to find the solution to this horrifying crime.  Authorities remain tight lipped about many of the details and questions abound about what they know that they aren’t sharing all these years later.  A family was shattered for no reason, and a violent and vicious crime was committed that shocked a community and continues to frustrate investigators.  In the years since her murder, a scholarship has been established in her name as well as a cottage having been built, named “Sonia’s Cottage,” at Camp Couchiching, where she used to volunteer.  Sadly, we remain without answers, but the fight for justice lives on.  Michele Varaschin, when asked about her daughter, replied “I just love her and I miss her.  She didn’t deserve to die.  It just doesn’t make sense.”  Hopefully, after all this time, the answers may be found, the guilty may be held accountable and for Sonia’s family, there may come peace in the bittersweet result of an arrest.

[Thoughts  & Theories]

                Sonia Varaschin was forty-two when her life was needlessly taken away.  She had a boyfriend, a very close family and was working toward developing her career, despite some difficulties and transitions which became necessary.  She lived in a nice Townhouse, visited her family often, spent nights laughing with friends and dancing whenever she could.  Defined by so many as free spirited, she also had a side of herself that was reserved and quiet.  She didn’t know her neighbors beyond cordial greetings, she hadn’t opened herself up fully, but she didn’t need to.  For the most part, her magnetic personality drew others to her.  That innate charisma that she possessed was all she needed to experience the world and expand her circle of friendship, even if she wasn’t the most outgoing.  Above all else, for Sonia, was work and she dedicated herself to helping others, to offering comfort to those who were battling illnesses and if the fight was one which couldn’t be overcome, she tried to make them as comfortable as possible while being there for their families.  She was a rarity in terms of her overwhelming compassion and empathy.  That only makes her murder even more so devastating and tragic.

                The Varaschin family had already faced enormous tragedy when their first born son perished in a terrible car accident.  While this was a devastating blow to the family, they had answers.  They knew what had happened and though it did little to assuage their grief, it gave them the ability to put their son to rest with a grasp of every detail they needed to accept his passing and find closure within, though the chasm in their hearts would always remain.  The death of a child is something every parent fears and no parent should ever have to deal with, and though the Varaschin’s had faced that horror, they could never have imagined that forty-two years later, they would have to confront it once again, but this time, they wouldn’t have the answers or the ability to find some kind of peace in the closure.

                Sonia Varaschin’s murder is a startling story that spans nearly eight years.  It’s the kind of story you’d expect there to be an answer to, the kind of mystery that seems completely solvable, and yet all these years later the questions only seem to expand and the mystery deepens.  Orangeville, Ontario was shocked by the viciousness of her death, even though the complete details of how Sonia was murdered have never been revealed.  In the absence of true answers, people will often attempt to fill in the blanks themselves and Sonia’s case is no different in that regard.  While debates between the family, the police and the community have created rift, others have come along to try and bridge that gap in hopes that someday the pieces will fit and the puzzle will be resolved.  Without knowing all of the details and without a single, solitary suspect identified, several theories have come to the surface and each holds its share of possibilities and flaws.

                The first theory is that Sonia was the victim of a random act of violence.  The police have been very outspoken about their dismissal of this theory, nearly since the first day of the investigation.  The idea that this could have been random was considered, but swept away within the first few days, during which time police assumed they were dealing with a homicide, but couldn’t know for sure.  To them, the idea that someone had simply come across Sonia and chosen to attack at random was unlikely.  Possible, certainly, but they believed the evidence suggested a connection, something personal.  For those who support the random act theory, there are a few pieces of information which exist to support it. 

                Sonia was an attractive woman with a vivacious personality who drew attention from men frequently, and when she was whirling on the dance floor, she was hard to miss.  We know, based on statements the police have made, that Sonia had spent time on dating apps, specifically Plenty of Fish.  Interestingly, Sonia had a boyfriend, though it has been purported that, in the last year of her life, their connection was more of an on again, off again situation.  Being a woman with so much to offer, and a loving heart, it isn’t difficult to imagine that the forty-two year old nurse may have wanted something more consistent, something with a more prominent connection and possible future.

                While the dating app evidence seems to suggest a more personal connection, making the crime less likely to be random, it does open the door to other possibilities.  Typically people on dating apps aren’t opposed to flirting, and may go out often with friends to bars or clubs in hopes of finding someone to date.  We know that Sonia loved to dance, so the idea that she could have caught the wrong person’s attention while out one night is certainly there.  We have no way of knowing if any men had flirted with her a little too aggressively, or simply become interested in the lovely woman across the dance floor.  It’s certainly something that has to be considered, and for many, the idea that Sonia could have drawn the wrong man’s attention is a probability that is more likely than not.

                Due to authorities tight lipped approach to this case, and their restraint on the finer details, we have no way of knowing why they believe that the killer was familiar with Sonia and her Townhouse.  However, being familiar with the woman and the place where she lived doesn’t necessarily suggest a strong personal connection.  Any number of delivery men, plumbers, craftsman, any kind of career which would have required them to enter her home could have given a familiarity to the layout and location.  Remember, the killer was wearing work boots.  Also, it should be noted, Sonia lived in a complex of Townhouses.  In almost all cases, the Townhouse layouts are exactly the same so being inside of one would give you a level of familiarity with the layout of all.  Then again, does someone truly have to know the layout of a home to attack a woman in her bedroom?  One of the main pieces of evidence released to support the idea that Sonia knew her killer was the lack of forced entry, but to me, that doesn’t necessarily imply familiarity.

Sonia’s mother, during an interview, suggested a possible scenario.  Sonia had a cat, named Jazzy, who she would let out at night.  Anyone who was in the area, current tenants or former, during the time that Sonia lived in the townhouse would likely have seen her at some point either letting in, or letting out her cat.  Under the assumption that this was random that doesn’t mean the killer couldn’t have stalked or watched Sonia for a prolonged period of time.  Perhaps a jealous man from a club, or someone who had a crush on her and was mentally unstable.  Either way, learning this schedule of letting Jazzy in and out probably wouldn’t have been complicated.  Sonia worked different shifts for her job, but even those could be learned rather quickly.  A call to her job to ask to speak to her would make someone readily aware of whether or not she was working on a particular night.

Sonia’s mother speculated that the killer could have been in the area, that night, watching and when Sonia let the cat out, he moved up closer to the door knowing that it wouldn’t be long before Sonia opened the door.  As soon as she would have opened it to let Jazzy in, the killer could have easily pushed the door all the way open or brandished a weapon to cause Sonia to allow him inside.  We don’t know what happened in that house that night, and I don’t wish to speculate about any crimes which may have taken place outside of murder, but suffice it to say, there are rumors that more than murder happened that night.  This is certainly a scenario which is possible.  Someone, once inside, could have forced Sonia to present her car keys before committing the murder, wrapping her up in her comforter and sheets and moving her to the trunk of her car for transportation.

This, though, is only one of many scenarios which are possible in terms of a random attack.  There are others, such as Sonia being the victim of a robbery gone wrong, or as some have suggested, being accosted on her drive home that evening resulting in someone forcing her to take him back to her home.  The possibilities here are rather numerous.  Simply because the attack could have been random doesn’t mean that the killer couldn’t have been a native of the area, highly familiar with Orangeville and the area on the outskirts.  More than likely, whoever committed this crime, continued living in the area for a time afterward, and could still be there today.  He obviously has not had his DNA tested against the sample in police possession, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t be around.  What it could mean is that, whoever committed this crime, may be someone police have never suspected or someone that no one would suspect.  While I understand all of the reasons that Police support the theory that the killer knew Sonia, I also think it’s possible, if not likely, that the killer attacked at random and Sonia herself may not have known him at all.

This leads us to the second theory which fits into the category of being a random attack, though one which in the killer’s mind may have had a connection to others.  The second theory suggests that Sonia’s murder was nothing to do with her as a person, and that there were no connection between she and her killer.  In this theory, some have purported that Sonia may have fallen victim to a serial killer.  Bodies were found in the Orangeville area prior to Sonia’s murder, and for a time after.  While police have stated there are no connections between Sonia and the other murder victims, and furthermore no connection between any of the other victims either, for many, this is a statement they can’t agree with.  Many have looked at the proximity in location and time between the murder of Sonia and the attack of Shelley Loder as an indication that it could have been the same person.

The idea that there could be a serial killer active in Ontario has been suggested more than once in connection to this case.  Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be a great deal of evidence to support it.  While yes, there have been multiple murders with bodies being disposed of in remote areas similar to where Sonia was discovered, police have maintained their perspective that there is no legitimate connection.  An important piece of evidence in this case has been the DNA which was recovered from the Sonia’s murder.  Again, we don’t specifically know what the source of the DNA was, but nonetheless, Police have that sample and have compared to over 600 men in the area.  It would be safe to believe that were this killer a serial they’d likely have matched DNA from him on another victim.  It’s entirely possible that he was safer in other cases, or simply made a mistake in Sonia’s, but it’s impossible to know for sure.

Some have argued that authorities are well aware of a serial killer, but simply don’t want to panic the public.  While there is some logic behind this, it seems counterintuitive.  Police have often warned the public when a serial killer was believed to be active in the area and considering the pressure placed on them, not just by Sonia’s family, but by the local media, it’s difficult to imagine they would choose to keep this detail to themselves.  Beyond that, we know they have further knowledge and evidence in regard to the killer than they have released which, on the one hand secures the integrity of their investigation, but on the other, opens the door to speculation such as this.

                Considering Sonia’s use of the POF app, some have even concluded that there could be a serial killer trolling dating apps in hopes of selecting a victim.  Again, this is a possibility but it’s so open to speculation that it’s difficult to even tackle as a theory.  This has been done before, but simply talking to someone on a dating app doesn’t necessarily assure you’re going to have an encounter.  On top of that, police dug through Sonia’s phone and computer thoroughly, tracking down men she had spoken to on the app.  If they found someone they considered a possibility, they’ve never revealed anything about it.  While Sonia’s murder was indeed terrible, there do not appear to be others in the area which fit the behavior of the killer that night.  Even the attack on Shelley Loder was different, just close in time and distance.  While the Serial killer theory can’t be ruled out, there doesn’t appear to be much to support it outside of wanton speculation.  To me, this is the least likely theory about this case.

                The final theory in this case is that Sonia was murdered, not by a serial killer, and not by a complete stranger at random, but instead by someone that she knew and possibly trusted.  While authorities haven’t revealed a great deal of information about what leads them to believe this, they have said that the killer likely knew Sonia, even if she didn’t know him well, and had a familiarity with the layout of her townhouse.  We can’t be sure why, but there is obviously evidence to suggest this to them.  In addition to this, they believe that Sonia may have been stalked or watched by her killer in the day or even weeks leading up to the attack and that the killer had a personal motivation for the attack.  In one article I read, one officer made an interesting statement about the lack of forced entry.  He said that while the killer hadn’t forced his way in, he hadn’t been let in by Sonia either.  What that means, I couldn’t exactly tell you, but it does make me wonder if more than one person had a key to her home.  Could he have been inside, waiting for her, when she got home that night?  Perhaps.

                If indeed the killer was someone who knew Sonia, that opens up a lot of possibilities.  A jealous ex-boyfriend, an angry co-worker, a friend who wanted something more, someone who felt Sonia had wronged him.  It’s an endless list, but police looked at the people around her closely.  They requested DNA samples, they have done comparrisons and they’ve come up with nothing.  They haven’t shared publically if anyone rejected the request of a voluntary DNA sample, so we can’t know if there is anyone they feel had something to hide.  What strikes me as a bit bizarre is the fact that they had a summit to discuss the case, during with experienced profilers drew up a profile of the killer, and yet they elected to not share most of the details, only giving a few of the broad strokes.  That feels like they either have an idea of exactly who the killer is, and don’t want to scare him off, or they have absolutely no clue.

                I have always wondered about the possible connection to a co-worker.  We know that, according to her mother, Sonia was having some issues at work with a supervisor.  There was the story about adjusting the dosage without permission which seems to have stemmed into something more.  In addition to that, Sonia had been injured at work and was seeking payment for her time off on disability and was even expected at an important meeting the day after she vanished.  For many, the possibility that this crime could have been committed by someone she worked with is certainly something to be looked into it.  Anyone she worked with could have gone to her townhouse that night and knocked on the door, she’d likely have let him in, especially if he said he was there to discuss a work issue or maybe even the disability.  Once inside, anything could have happened.

                There was also the townhouse a few doors down where Sonia was having a problem with several young men who were partying quite a bit.  Reportedly the guys were having loud gatherings that were interrupting Sonia’s sleep and after several attempts to convince them to keep it down, she eventually called the police.  Some have suggested that one of these men could have had a vendetta against her and wanted to take revenge.  Perhaps things went a little too far and Sonia became the victim of a murder.  It’s purely speculative, though possible.  Again, we have to believe that police would have looked into these men and watched them closely.  Being that they had several pieces of evidence, you’d think if these men were responsible we’d have heard something by now.  The word is that they no longer live there, but being that police had been involved previously, I’d have to believe they were checked out.

                In terms of someone who knew Sonia, or someone she may have known, Police also looked at her dating website activities.  There has been speculation that Sonia could have been talking to someone on one of these sites and, ultimately, invited him over at some point, perhaps even the night she was murdered.  Some have theorized that either the man wanted more than Sonia was willing to offer, and things turned violent, or Sonia spurned the man and wasn’t interested, causing him to track her down and find a way inside.  It’s very difficult with a case that has three different crime scenes to try and work with such limited information.  Obviously authorities have more, but it hasn’t lead to them solving the case any faster either.  We know that Sonia’s boyfriend was looked at, but cleared of involvement, which dismisses him from the pool of suspects.  So who could it have been?  A jealous want to be lover?  A man that found himself infactuated with the beautiful young nurse?  Unfortunately, the answer remains to be found.

                One question which has come up in this case, in more than one instance, is why the body was removed from the home in the first place.  There has been a great deal of speculation about this and, for many, it’s a strange detail.  If the killers intent was to murder Sonia, why would he go through the trouble of taking her car, driving the her someone to dispose of her, and then driving the car back to abandon it.  It seems like a lot of work, and driving around in the middle of the night in a white car with clear blood smears on the bumper is a fairly easy way to get caught, but of course in this case that didn’t happen.  Also, why he left the car where he did has been another point of contention.  Some have argued that the killer parked his vehicle, walked to Sonia’s home, murdered her, drove her body out to the dump site and then abandoned her car near where he parked while he made his escape.  That’s a steps, and certainly would suggest premeditation ruling out any theory of things simply going too far.

                For a week, Sonia remained missing, and perhaps that was the killer’s plan all along.  To get buy himself time to get away or, perhaps, to hope that she would never be found.  The problem I have with this is that, Sonia was found by a man walking his dog.  This suggests her body wasn’t buried or concealed, but simply placed.  That is not exactly the behavior of someone who doesn’t want her to be found, and if indeed he knew the area well, then he may have also known that people walked their dogs there.  Perhaps he wanted her found.  Wrapping her up in her comfort and sheets, placing her somewhere she would be found, all of this indicates a sense of remorse from the killer.  Perhaps this is another reason authorities believe Sonia knew her killer.

                In a case such as this, where motive can’t be determined, you’ve got to look at some of the oldest motives in the book:  Greed, Jealousy and Love.  Sonia’s murderer may have fell into one or more of these categories.  A jealous lover, or would be lover.  Someone looking for money, or to protect his own investments.  We may never know, but while authorities have strongly supported the theory that Sonia knew her killer, and much evidence seems to support it, this has to be considered the most likely scenario in a case where almost all possibilities are likely to one degree or another.  If indeed there is a connection between Sonia and her killer, we can only hope that eventually, that DNA gets a hit and the culprit is brought to swift and certain justice.

                The murder of Sonia Varaschin is a difficult case to examine with a lot of details hidden away.  That knowledge which we do possess only seems to lend credence to the solvability of the case, despite its lack of a resolution thus far.  For Sonia’s family, they continue to live each day wondering what happened, and hoping that sooner rather than later the suspect will be arrested.  For them, the brilliance of Sonia was snuffed out needlessly, and for nearly eight years, they’ve struggle to understand why someone would do this and how they could so carelessly take the life of such a beautiful and caring woman. 

                The Facebook page “In Loving Memory of Sonia Varaschin” is chock full of posts from her family and friends, as well as total strangers, who wish to honor her memory and show support.  Many of the posters are the parents of children that Sonia worked with during her life, giving thanks for her caring words, her kind actions and her immense compassion.  It’s difficult to read through, knowing that someone who has received so much care and attention was stolen away in a brutal act of violence which remains unsolved. 

While Sonia’s family and the police do not have the close relationship they once did, there is one area in which they agree:  the answers are out there and someone knows the truth.  Perhaps that someone is even listening right now.  Whoever it may be, that person possess the ability to solve a terrible murder, ease the tensions of a community and assuage the incredible pain of a family who is left wondering.  Until that person comes forward, or police make a miraculous break in the case with new evidence or a DNA match, the murder of Sonia Varaschin remains open and unsolved.