A Preventable Death – Bonnie Sudol

It was the wee hours of the morning; mostly, everyone was asleep. It was cold and snowy, and no one was around to witness a young woman’s horrible and heinous death in the parking lot behind a building in a fairly residential area. But it was a death six years in the making and could have been prevented. This is Bonnie Sudol’s story.

Saturday morning was a bit chilly but not nearly as cold as the winters can get in the area. There was snow on the ground, and people milled about in their winter parkas or overcoats and boots. Vincenzo Martino, a member of the Rossini lodge, got out of bed and accompanied his wife to the clubhouse on Grey Street to clean the lodge hall. At around 9:30 am, he went out the lodge’s back door to take out the garbage. As he stepped out of the back of the building, he was greeted by a horrible scene; a fully clothed young woman who was so severely beaten, almost obliterating her facial features. Her blood-spattered 4 ½ feet (or 1.4 M) up the side of the lodge building wall. Law enforcement was quickly called and arrived at the scene within minutes. Her identity was confirmed within a short time as Bonnie Virginia Sudol.

Bonnie was a beautiful blonde 21-year-old young woman. She had an older sister who had married and moved out of their quaint small family home. It was just her and her mom and dad. Her friends were getting married, too; she was a bridesmaid at one of her friend’s weddings just the year before. It was the 1970’s though, and there was no rush to wed. She was a bright young woman with a heart of gold, albeit a little naïve. She honestly tried to find the best in people.

By January 1974, Bonnie worked as a waitress at the Arch Lounge in the Graham Bell Hotel in downtown Brantford. She had worked there for about a year. Before working at the hotel, she worked as a counsellor at a home for wayward boys in Hamilton, about 30-40 minutes drive east of Brantford, where she lived. 

She was well-liked at the hotel and had a good relationship with the owners and her co-workers, even giving the aging hotel doorman the nickname Grandpa.

The Graham Bell Hotel was located at the corner of Dalhousie & King Street in the downtown Brantford core. Now, this area is relatively calm, congregated by vagrants, university students, uber eats drivers and individuals heading to the bank or some local stores. But, in the early to mid-1970’s there was a little more hustle and bustle. The hotel itself was a relatively small 2 to 3-story building and busy enough. Nestled in the hotel was the Arch Lounge, a bar or tavern visited by guests and likely locals alike. This is where Bonnie worked as a waitress.

Bonnie started her closing shift on Friday, January 4. Also working that night was the usual doorman, Bob Lesky, whom she nicknamed “Grandpa,” one of the co-owners, Vincent Seniunas, his 17-year-old son Ronald, and 2 part-time bouncers, 18-year-old Edward Krohe, who only just started working there that night, and 20-year-old Gerald Hubbert who had worked at the hotel lounge for close to 5 weeks. Both Edward and Gerald were students of Mohawk College and knew each other from school.

The hotel lounge closed early on Saturday, January 5, close to 2:00 am. After closing duties, she sat at the bar with Edward and Gerald for a few minutes and chatted. Likely during this conversation, they had agreed to hang out for a bit after they left the lounge. The co-owner, Vincent Seniunas, asked Bonnie if she needed a ride home. She wasn’t given the opportunity to answer as Gerald answered for her and told Mr. Seniunas that Bonnie had a ride home. Mr. Seniunas waited a few minutes and, not liking that Bonnie didn’t answer for herself, asked her again if she needed a drive home. This time she answered, though hesitantly, according to Mr. Seniunas. He said she looked at Edward and Gerald and replied somewhat reluctantly that she had a lift. She was one of the last people to leave the hotel after closing. Hotel doorman, Bob Lesky, said that Bonnie followed Edward and Gerald out of the hotel at about 2:15 am. Her last words to him were, “Goodnight, Grandpa.” They all climbed into Edward’s car and left the hotel. She never returned home.

Edward rented an apartment in the city with two other young men, brothers, during the week while they attended classes. Edward went home every weekend to his parents’ home in LaSalette, a 30-minute drive southwest of Brantford. And that Saturday was no exception. After their shift ended at the Arch Lounge, the trio had apparently decided to have a beer together before going home. Edward drove Gerald and Bonnie to this apartment, which was empty as Edward’s roommates would also go home on weekends. The apartment was on the second floor of a home at 275 Murray Street, about 2 km from the hotel and only 200 M or yards from where Bonnie was murdered. Edward would say they arrived at the apartment close to 2:30 am. He unlocked the door for Gerald and Bonnie, stayed a few minutes, told Gerald that there was beer in the fridge and then left to drive the 30 minutes to his parents’ home.

The crime scene was extremely violent and would affect the responding officers for years to come. The police carefully blocked off the entire area behind the Rossini lodge. Bonnie’s chest and head were so severely beaten that her blood had splattered 4.5 feet (1.4 M) up the back wall of the building. In addition, there was dark blood splattered across the surrounding bright snow. Some of her teeth were found up to 8 feet (2.4 M) away from her body. A bloody rubber heel from a man’s boot was found close to her body. Her body was fully clothed, including her winter overcoat; therefore, there were no apparent signs of sexual assault. Only one of her two earrings was found on the scene. After taking photos and making observations, her body was removed for autopsy.

On Saturday, Gerald would call Edward twice at his parents’ home. The first call from Gerald to Edward was before Edward had any knowledge of Bonnie’s death. In this call, Gerald told Edward that Bonnie was missing. He then asked Edward if the police had called or questioned him about Bonnie’s disappearance to reply that he and Edward had left the hotel without Bonnie. Gerald would call again around 5:00 pm to tell Edward that Bonnie was dead. He once again suggested to Edward that he, should he be questioned by the police, should tell the police that they were not with Bonnie after their shift at the lounge. Edward went to the police after receiving this last call from Gerald, letting them know that he drove Gerald and Bonnie to his apartment at 275 Grey Street.

Law enforcement would obtain a warrant to search the apartment at 275 Murray Street. Fingerprints were taken. Other forensic evidence was collected, including strands of long blonde hair found on one of the beds and an earring matching the one found at the crime scene behind the Rossini Lodge.

After obtaining the statements from the co-owner and co-workers who saw her leave with Edward and Gerald and after speaking to Edward about Gerald’s call, Gerald was brought in for questioning. Gerald told multiple lies during his interviews, such as denying that he was at the apartment and being with Bonnie. As a result, he was arrested, cautioned, and charged with non-capital murder that same day. Police fingerprinted him as part of the booking and collected the suede overcoat, trousers, and shirt that he was wearing from January 4 to the early morning of the 5th. The trousers and shirt had both been laundered. 

Three fingerprints lifted from a beer bottle in the apartment’s kitchen at 275 Murray Street matched those of Gerald Hubbert’s. In addition, the hair strands were tested, and the tests concluded to match Bonnie’s hair, placing both of them in the apartment. After denying being with Bonnie the day in question, he would then tell city investigators that he had fallen asleep in the apartment shortly after arriving. He said he woke up at 4:00 am and found that Bonnie and Edward were missing from the apartment. He then left and went home. This was only after the police confronted him with his lies.

The autopsy was completed by Brantford pathologist Dr. Lyle Jentz. He would conclude that Bonnie’s ultimate cause of death was manual strangulation, further concluding that it had been crushed by a thumb using considerable force based on the shape of the crushed bones in the larynx. The pathologist’s view was that Bonnie had been kicked about the head, neck, and chest. However, she was probably dead by manual strangulation before the beating. Injuries to her body included a broken jaw, broken facial bones, broken & missing teeth, a crushed chest, broken ribs, and the rare crushed larynx. The presence of blood in the mouth and none in the lungs indicated that she had been dead before the beating. Medical evidence would show that sexual intercourse had occurred, and semen was found in Bonnie’s underwear. Whether the intercourse was forcible was not indicated. The pathologist placed her time of death at about 5:30 am, although he said the method used was inaccurate and his estimate could be up to 1.5 hrs wrong in either way; therefore, it could be between 4:00 am to 7:00 am.

Gerald was first in court on Monday, January 7. Following his appearance, law enforcement received an anonymous call which led the police to search the attic of Gerald’s home. During that search, police located a pair of blood-stained leather boots with one heel missing.

Forensic testing was completed on the boots, the separate heel that was located at the crime scene, Gerald’s suede overcoat, his trousers, and his shirt. The testing concluded that the rubber heel beside Bonnie’s body came from the right boot of the pair found in Gerald’s attic. At the time of the crime, forensic analysis of the blood evidence consisted of typecasting. William Towstiak, a biological analyst at the Ontario Forensic Science Lab in Toronto, said Bonnie’s blood type was present in only 1% of the population. In comparison, 12% had the same blood type as Gerald. There were blood types in Canada at the time that was higher than 12%. Bloodstains on the left boot, the suede overcoat and the broken heel matched Bonnie’s blood type, which was a rare blood type. Semen samples from Bonnie’s underclothes were from someone in Gerald’s 12% blood group. Mr. Towstiak said the heel found in the snow beside Bonnie’s body was identified through microscopic examination as coming from the boots found in the attic. Blood was also found on Gerald’s shirt and the lower leg area of his pants, but the samples couldn’t be type-matched as the samples were too small for testing at the time, and the trousers and shirt had gone through the wash.

Bonnie’s family mourned her death with friends and family. On Tuesday, January 8, her funeral was held at Thorpe’s funeral home in Brantford, followed by interment at St. Joseph’s cemetery.

The preliminary hearing into the non-capital murder against Gerald was scheduled for February 15. He appeared in provincial court on January 16 and was remanded into custody until his scheduled preliminary hearing. The hearing ended up being postponed until May 3. Gerald had initially hired local criminal defence lawyer Howard Staats to represent him; however, he let him go and hired a new lawyer out of Toronto the afternoon before the scheduled hearing. Both his new and old lawyers showed up in court on February 15. The old lawyer to have his name removed from the record, and the new lawyer to ask for a delay in the hearing so he could prepare for the case as he was just hired the afternoon before.

The hearing was to take place on May 3; however, on that date, Gerald’s defence council John Hamilton, waived the right for a preliminary hearing in exchange for the right to cross-examine three crown witnesses. As a result, Gerald was committed to trial by a court that is higher than the provincial court for the non-capital murder of Bonnie Virginia Sudol.

The trial took place over 4 days in October of that same year. Gerald testified on his own behalf and denied having anything to do with Bonnie’s murder. He said he fell asleep when he got to the apartment with Edward and Bonnie and woke up at 4:00 am to notice they were both gone. He then said that he went out to the landing outside the apartment to get his boots, but they weren’t there, forcing him to pick up another pair of boots to walk home in. On cross-examination, he couldn’t answer how his own bloodied boots showed up in his parents’ attic, where he lived. He also tried to explain the blood found on his trousers that couldn’t be type-matched as they had been washed. He said the blood had come from a hotel patron he was forced to eject in November of 1973. He then told the court that the blood on his coat and shirt was from a finger cut even though the blood on the overcoat was type matched to Bonnie and not himself. He then admitted lying to the police, who had questioned him twice. His explanation for the lies was that he was waiting for Edward to return to Brantford from LaSalette to clear up details, as arranged earlier by phone.

He then explained that he wouldn’t have been able to kill Bonnie by manual strangulation because in that same altercation in November, he had broken his left hand, his dominant hand. As a result, on January 4, he only had partial use of it.

In summation to the jury, defence counsel said the most mysterious part of the case was the anonymous call that led the police to find the boots in the attic. Admitting that probably the boots were used in the crime but suggesting that they were placed there by someone else, the real culprit and that the guilty party then tipped off the police. Although not explicitly named, he was alluding to Edward. “Who else would have known the boots were up there?” he asked.

In the crown’s summation, Brant crown attorney Charles Borda said only Gerald, Bonnie and Edward could have known that the three of them were in the apartment that night. If Edward had borrowed Gerald’s boots, he would have had pre-meditation of murdering Bonnie. The fact that the boots were used to kick the already dead body was inconsistent with pre-meditation. To hide the boots then in Gerald’s attic during an active investigation would have been impossible. He also indicated that Gerald never mentioned in his interviews since Bonnie’s murder that he had to borrow another pair of boots from the apartment until he testified in court after gaining knowledge of the crown’s evidence. He then theorized that if the defence council’s idea were accurate, that Edward had driven Bonnie to the death scene after having had intercourse with her, she would have shouted, figuring something was amiss. There would be no reasons after sexual relations in the apartment, he said, for the couple to drive into a parking lot some 200 yards away. He theorized that instead, Gerald and Bonnie had started walking along Grey street; Bonnie got frightened at something and had tried to flee behind Rossini Lodge and had been killed there. “Who else would have known the boots were up there?” he asked. In addition to reconfirming the physical evidence testified to in court, he stressed that the semen stains on Bonnie’s underclothes were from someone in the 12% of the population blood group to which Gerald belonged.

The jury deliberated for 8.5 hours before bringing a unanimous verdict at 8:30pm on Tuesday, October 22, 1973. Shackled and nervous, Gerald was brought into court surrounded by uniformed and plain-clothed police officers. The jury foreman would say the jury found Gerald Hubbert guilty as charged in Bonnie’s murder.

The judge addressed the court that Gerald would be sentenced to life in prison (life here meaning the balance of his natural life) and advised that he was obliged to impose a minimum mandatory 10-year term that he would need to serve before potentially being eligible for parole. The judge asked if the jury members would recommend how many years the accused would need to serve before being eligible for parole. The jury left but then returned only 5 minutes later. At that time, defence counsel asked the court clerk to poll each jury member on their individual verdicts; each replied, “guilty.” The jury foreman said they had no recommendations.

And then Gerald’s defence counsel dropped a bombshell. Gerald had raped a woman when he was only 14 years old, was not found guilty by reason of insanity, and was incarcerated from age 15. He served just over 5 years at the Penetanguishene mental health centre and had just been released in September 1973.

A defence of not guilty due to insanity was never raised during the 4-day trial, but at sentencing Justice Hughes, in his address to the jury, said that a finding of not guilty by way of insanity would be acceptable. The judge pointed to the brutal manner in which the murder was committed and suggested that the person who committed the crime might not be legally sane.

When Mr. Justice Hughes asked Gerald if he had anything to say before sentencing, Gerald said he felt the jury reached a wrong verdict. Followed by “I did not commit the crime. I don’t think I had a fair or just trial.” He then accused one of the crown witnesses of perjury, likely Edward. Finally, he said that excusing the 12th juror at the beginning of the 4-day trial had influenced the rest of the jury.

In his remarks, the judge, Justice Hughes, told Gerald that “the crime for which you were convicted was a brutal and inexcusable murder, characterized by mutilation of an inexcusable type.” He further stated that the fact that he had committed the crime while on parole from the mental health centre at Penetanguishene “must be cause for grave public concern.” Accordingly, justice Hughes said he held it was his duty to swap the 10-year minimum to a 15-year minimum before parole eligibility.

Gerald interrupted the judge’s finishing remarks by saying he would appeal the decision to a higher court. A short while later, a commotion between some of Gerald’s family and court officials broke out. As a result, police stayed on the scene.

Bonnie’s horrendous murder could have been avoided. If it weren’t for poor laws and processes and lack of oversight of the release of the criminally insane, Bonnie would be nearing her golden years with a ton of memories, moments, and experiences behind her. Instead, it was brutally cut short at the beginning of her adult life.

Bonnie would be alive today if her murderer was properly supervised after he was permitted to leave the mental health centre at Penetanguishene. This is the conclusion of Dr. D.A. Boyd, medical director of the Penetanguishene mental hospital, in 1974.

Gerald viciously and violently raped a 26-year-old woman in the London, ON, area when he was only 14 years old. He was found criminally insane, and his name was never published due to his age, as he was a minor. However, he was sentenced to serve time at the Penetanguishene mental hospital. He was considered a dangerous offender at that time. During his time in the mental hospital, he would undergo treatment, including therapy.

He was released after being confined for a little over 5 years on what was called a “loosened warrant” in September of 1973. His only conditions on release, which were not overseen, were that he was to live with his father, attend school and stay away from alcohol. There was no parole officer or probation officer, no weekly or monthly check-ins with the hospital and no communication about his release into Brantford to the Brantford police. Dr. Boyd said in an interview that the hospital did not inform the police or any other authority of Gerald’s release in September 1973. This would prove to be a fatal flaw in the system.

A little after a month after being released back into his dad’s custody, on October 30, 1973, Gerald was charged by the local police with careless driving, failing to report an accident and public mischief. The doctor said that the hospital would have rescinded Gerald’s release if it had known about Gerald’s encounter with police and that he worked as a bouncer at the hotel’s beverage room. But because the police were unaware that Gerald was released on a special Ontario Cabinet order, the hospital at Penetanguishene was not told about it. As a result, Gerald remained free in Brantford. Nine weeks later, he murdered and mutilated Bonnie Sudol.

The issue was raised in the Ontario legislature shortly after 9:00 am Friday (October 25) 1974 by the liberal leader at the time when he asked the correctional services minister why Gerald was not given adequate supervision after his release from the hospital where the majority of Ontario’s criminally insane were confined. The correctional services minister replied that the hospital’s patients were under the health minister’s supervision, not correctional services. Both health ministers were absent due to vacation at the time. The liberal leader said he would raise the issue again in the House the following week.

Dr. Boyd said Gerald’s warrant was unusual because he did not have to report to a local mental hospital or authorities the way most on such warrants do. He also stated that Gerald was to report only to classes at Mohawk College and his father in Brantford.

Dr. Boyd went on to imply that although unusual, Gerald’s case was a one-off and that he didn’t believe that it’s fair to condemn the loose warrant system, which has enabled increasing numbers judged unfit to stand trial or found not guilty of a crime by reason of insanity to work their way back into society. He indicated that a study of 50 such cases by the hospital showed that fewer than 10% had become involved in criminal activities of any kind after their release. Furthermore, of the 10%, all were of a minor nature, except in Gerald’s case. That being said, there was no mention when discussing the study results, the nature of the crimes for which those 50 individuals were originally incarcerated, OR their underlying potential psychiatric diagnosis.

He also indicated that the candidates for these types of warrants were screened thoroughly before their release from the maximum-security hospital. They first needed to be cleared by hospital staff. Then they must obtain a recommendation from the advisory review board, which was headed by Mr. Justice Edson Haines of the Ontario Supreme Court. The review board also contained two psychiatrists, a lawyer and a citizen who was not involved in either law or psychiatry.

In addition, the warrant needed to be approved by the minister of health and then the cabinet, which would issue an order in council. Dr. Boyd said, “It looked like the right thing to do at the time in this particular case. Obviously, we were wrong.”

The system at the time that allowed Gerald to go free was appallingly defective. Of the four stages of release, those involving the health minister and the cabinet were along the lines of paper-shuffling, and the second, the review board, relied mainly on the initial staff recommendation. This, as Dr. Boyd has said, was wrong. If the review board had obtained or sought analysis from an independent psychiatrist who would examine and test the inmate instead of working from staff reports, it would have mitigated the risk of having an unfit and dangerous person left in the wind, free, and without adequate supervision.

Some immediate changes surrounding this issue or gap occurred in 1974 due to this case. The behaviour records of all criminally insane persons freed on loosened warrants and living in Ontario are to be checked “as a public safeguard,” a slight gain paid with a woman’s life.

Further procedures on releasing dangerous patients at the hospital were tightened before the end of the year. The health minister announced in December 1974 that patients would no longer be released from mental hospitals on “loosened warrants” without police being notified. A loosened warrant is a release that allows a person to return to the community to speed recovery from mental illness.

Hospitals would maintain contact with patients while warrants are in force “so that we will have a guaranteed link with those patients.” This was in response to criticism in the legislature, who said that the ministry attempts to force mental patients into the community prematurely.

Further changes were made in 1994 when the board for the mental health institutions where the criminally insane are detained started being governed by the criminal code and were restricted in granting discharges to mental health patients, conditional and absolute.

Before, the Ontario Cabinet could order a person discharged, and the justification for the release didn’t need to be spelled out. Since 1994 the review board has made the call, bound by the Criminal Code. A discharge is not considered unless there is no threat to society and the hearing process to assess risk is clearly defined. Mental health patients in detention facilities are subject to an initial oral hearing that was not required before 1994. All those on conditional discharge receive annual hearings to update the board.

If not for these fatal flaws in our system in 1974, Bonnie would be turning 70 this year, likely surrounded by her kids and grandkids. And although changes were made to the system in Ontario because of what happened to her, it was a hefty price to pay. This brings us to the end of Bonnie’s story. All photos of the site visits will be posted to Instagram, Facebook, and the website. As well, any videos taken, along with the link to the clip of the Graham Bell Hotel in the 1970s will be available on the website, Facebook and YouTube. 

Gerald Hubbert Circa 1998

Sources:

The Expositor (Brantford, ON), 7 Jan 1974 – Mon

The Expositor (Brantford, ON), Jan 17, 1974 (Thursday)

The Expositor (Brantford, ON), Feb 15, 1974 (Friday)

The Expositor (Brantford, ON), May 3, 1974 (Friday)

The Expositor (Brantford, ON), Oct 18, 1974 (Friday)

The Expositor (Brantford, ON), Oct 19, 1974 (Saturday)

The Expositor (Brantford, ON), Oct 22, 1974 (Tuesday)

The Expositor (Brantford, ON), Oct 23, 1974 (Wednesday)

The Expositor (Brantford, ON), Oct 26, 1974 (Saturday)

The Expositor (Brantford, ON), Oct 29, 1974 (Tuesday)

The Kingston Whig-Standard (Kingston, ON) – Nov 9 1974 (Saturday)

The Kingston Whig-Standard (Kingston, ON) – Dec 20 1974 (Friday)

The Expositor (Brantford, ON), Aug 25, 1998 (Tuesday)

The Expositor (Brantford, ON), Aug 26, 1998 (Wednesday)

29 Aug 1998, 6 – Edmonton Journal at Newspapers.com

29 Aug 1998, 6 – Edmonton Journal at Newspapers.com

02 Sep 1998, 1 – Mail at Newspapers.com

25 Aug 1998, 1 – Calgary Herald at Newspapers.com

25 Mar 1977, 17 – The Expositor at Newspapers.com

22 Feb 1965, 10 – The Expositor at Newspapers.com

03 Mar 1965, 6 – The Expositor at Newspapers.com

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