There is nothing quite so frustrating for police than when a murderer gets away with a brazen and callous act. But when the victim is a 13-year-old girl, solving the crime becomes more than just a job – it can turn into a mission.
And that’s just one reason OPP investigators are offering a $50,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest in the killing of Leah Sousa. The teenager and her mother were both brutally attacked in their Cumberland Beach home near Orillia back on September 1, 1990.
Now almost 20 years later, the case is cold but the desire for a resolution is as hot as ever. It was reignited when authorities set up a new command post in the area on Wednesday, after receiving a still unspecified phone tip.
Whatever the caller said was convincing enough to get searchers to scour a brushy area, looking for something that may have been lost to history all this time.
“We had one tip that led us to a search across the highway here for potential evidence from 18 years ago,” confirms Det. Inspector Mark Pritchard. “We realized that it’s a long shot but we’re willing to follow up every tip we get from the public, no matter how insignificant it may seem.”
But cops refuse to say what that evidence might be, if they found anything or whether it’s likely to have survived all this time in such a remote spot.
But it gives them a chance to recount the facts of this incredibly disturbing incident.
It happened on a stiflingly hot night right after the family, who had just returned from a six week vacation, had gone to bed. A killer broke into their home through a back door sometime between 1:30 and 3:30am.
Mother Lora Sousa was beaten and left for dead, eventually recovering in hospital from permanent injuries. Her daughter wasn’t as lucky. The same intruder sexually assaulted the terrified youngster before dragging her out to her own backyard and bludgeoning her with something similar to a crowbar. She died of massive head injuries.
A 9-month-old brother was left unharmed in his crib but grew up never knowing his older sister.
Leah Sousa’s friend discovered the carnage when she came to call on the family the next morning and ran for help.
Cops know the mom tried to get aid during her ordeal, but her broken hand and a destroyed phone prevented any chance of rescue.
The OPP calls this one of the most brutal and vicious cases they’ve ever dealt with – and they’ve never given up trying to solve it. A series of billboards is now up along Highway 11 giving the crime renewed publicity.
But there’s another new clue in this long stalled investigation and it’s something that wouldn’t have been available back in 1990. The OPP say they’re exploring a new avenue of DNA technology with help from American experts, in the effort to identify the killer.
While they’re waiting for sceince to make a difference, police hope the money will loosen some long shut lips. If you know anything about this baffling and terrible killing, call 1-888-310-1122 or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).