EUGENE, Ore. — Police in Eugene, Oregon, have solved a serial killer cold case from the 1980s involving three murdered women, thanks to genetic genealogy.
Police say John Charles Bolsinger, born Sept. 17, 1957, is suspected in the murder of Gladys May Hensley, 62. Hensley’s body was discovered during a welfare check on June 5, 1986, by an apartment building employee after she had not been seen for several days. The investigation revealed that she had been killed the previous day.
Bolsinger was identified using the new technology – along with extensive follow-up and additional evidence, according to Eugene Police.
“Police were unable to locate the … suspect, however, similarities in the murder and evidence at the scene connected the suspect with two additional murders, one that occurred in the same month and the other in February 1988,” said Eugene Police.
Hensley’s murder was linked to the June 19, 1986, murder of Janice Marie Dickinson.
Dickinson, a 33-year-old white female, was found murdered behind a car dealership.
“She was naked and had been sexually assaulted,” added investigators. “Her death was attributed to brutal homicidal violence.”
Bolsinger was also involved in the February 28, 1988, murder of Geraldine Spencer Toohey, investigated by the Oregon State Police. Toohey, a 73-year-old white female, was found in her residence in Eugene, where evidence of forced entry into the residence was discovered.
Police say Toohey was also sexually assaulted with her death attributed to “brutal homicidal violence.”
Law enforcement officials added that several persons of interest were developed and thoroughly investigated over the years and were excluded through DNA comparison. All three cases lacked any strong leads.
In 2016, a new technology came to market, from Parabon Nano Labs, allowing the inference of physical characteristics of individuals based on DNA information, according to EPD officials.
“This service, snapshot phenotyping, was employed in this case and in September, 2017, Eugene Police investigators received the results. The detailed snapshot report was released by EPD in 2018 and detectives were hopeful it would generate new leads in the cases,” recalled law enforcement. “The Eugene Police Department’s Violent Crimes Unit established a dedicated tip line for the cases. More than 100 tips were received and followed up on by VCU detectives, but all of the names provided were eliminated as suspects.”
In May 2018, Parabon Nano Labs began offering genetic genealogy, according to police.
The service was used by violent crime unit detectives, which lead to four potential suspects, including Bolsinger. Detectives said they learned Bolsinger died by suicide in Springfield, Oregon on March 23, 1988.
“VCU detectives were able to establish a timeline for John Bolsinger from 1975-1988. While establishing this timeline, VCU Detectives learned John Bolsinger was arrested for murder in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1980 and ultimately served a five-year prison sentence before being paroled to Springfield, Oregon on March 7, 1986,” police said. “Approximately three months later, Gladys Hensley was discovered (murdered). Two weeks later, Janice Dickinson was discovered murdered.”
Detectives also learned that Bolsinger was arrested for a burglary by the Springfield Police Department on Sept. 26, 1986. Upon arrival, officers said they heard a woman screaming and learned the suspect had fled. The victim told officers she was at home and having trouble sleeping.
“She heard her dog making strange noises in the kitchen, so she went to investigate. All of the interior lights were off. There was a light on outside, at the rear sliding door. She saw a suspect peering through her kitchen window,” said police. “She saw the window slide open and then the suspect reached inside and removed a brace in the slider. She ran back to the living room and called 911. While on the phone, she saw the suspect walk into the living room.”
Detectives added, “He stood still for a moment and then approached her. She started screaming as the suspect tried to pull the phone from her hand. She started striking the suspect with the phone and a flashlight.”
The suspect, later identified as Bolsinger, fled through the kitchen window. He left behind a down vest and paring knife.
EPD said Bolsinger ran from police, but he was captured by an SPD K9 Officer and his K9. Bolsinger claimed he knocked at the door a couple of times and then walked away when he didn’t get an answer.
(Pictured above: Bolsinger’s three murder victims, courtesy of the Eugene Police Department.)
He claimed to have memory loss when questioned further.
Bolsinger was later convicted and sentenced to five years prison in the Oregon Department of Corrections. He was then transferred from the Oregon Department of Corrections to Utah State Prison on August 4, 1987.
Police said Bolsinger remained in Utah State Prison on a parole violation until December 8, 1987. Three days later, he enrolled at Lane Community College for the 1988 winter term.
On February 28, 1988, Toohey was discovered murdered in her residence.
Less than a month later, Bolsinger was discovered dead at his apartment in Springfield.