Skip to main content

Tamara Baluja

It took Toronto police 30 years to crack open the cold case of University of Toronto secretary Donna Anne Proian's homicide. When they were finally ready to reveal their suspect, police had to go to a Toronto jail cell to charge the man who was already serving a life sentence for the murder of a different woman.

Ernest William Westergard was charged Friday with first-degree murder in the 1981 homicide of Ms. Proian, Detective Sergeant Steve Ryan said.

Media reports dating back to the homicide said Ms. Proian, 30, had been strangled with her own clothing and stabbed several times in the face. Her husband found her body inside the locked apartment at 120 St. Patrick St.

Police wouldn't say what caused them to re-examine evidence in Ms. Proian's death, but it led to the arrest of Mr. Westergard, who used to live in a suite neighbouring the Proians.

"Westergard has been on the radar right from the onset of this investigation," Det. Sgt. Ryan said. "You may think you've gotten away with a homicide, but in fact, you haven't and you won't. The scientific technology is so great that we will catch you. It may take time, in this case 30 years, but we will catch you."

Thirteen years after Ms. Proian's death, Mr. Westergard killed a woman under chillingly similar circumstances. Forty-nine-year-old Sonia Run was sexually assaulted and strangled in her Mississauga home in 1994.

Ms. Run's husband, Ara, told The Globe and Mail that police called him to say Mr. Westergard was being investigated Thursday.

"Although it's been 17 years and three months, it's something very hard to move on from," Mr. Run said. "I remember during my wife's tragedy, it took a very long time to get the DNA back. And this other case was 30 years ago. If the police could have caught him earlier, they would have."

Mr. Run had asked a neighbour to check on his wife after he became worried when she didn't show up to their jewellery business or pick up the home phone.

Court documents say Ms. Run's "naked and badly beaten body was found on the upstairs bathroom floor." An expert testified that "Ms. Run had been killed in the master bedroom and then moved to the bathroom, where she had been washed."

Mr. Westergard, who worked as a carpet salesman out of a store on Dundas Street East in Mississauga, had sold Ms. Run $2,500 worth of flooring and carpeting, and had been in her home at least three times.

Mr. Westergard attempted to have his conviction overthrown by the Supreme Court, but the court refused to hear the case. He is eligible for parole in 2023.

With a report from Celia Donnelly