A man’s apparent suicide in a Toronto jail the night the Supreme Court of Canada rejected his bid to avoid deportation to California closes the book on a 26-year-old murder case but leaves unanswered questions.
“The system failed on both sides (of the border),” Det. Michael Reilly of the Huntington Beach, Calif., police department, said Tuesday.
Born in the Philippines in 1956, Gerald Su Go moved to the U.S. in 1984 with his parents. They had a friend who lived next door to Elizabeth Hoffschneider in the coastal city, about 60 kilometres south of Los Angeles. On Nov. 15, 1984, the 38-year-old office manager was found in her bed severely beaten, stabbed and strangled. The case went unsolved.
In 1986, Su Go pleaded guilty to an attempted rape in Costa Mesa., Calif., and was sentenced to five years. But he fled before serving any time. An arrest warrant was issued in May 1987. Police believe he returned to the Philippines before coming to Canada in 1991 where he worked at Home Depot, Sears and an animal hospital. It’s unclear what city he lived in. In 1995, he became a Canadian citizen using his real name and date of birth.
“How did this guy become a citizen when he was a wanted fugitive?” asked Reilly. In October 2004, Su Go was picked up on the outstanding warrant at La Guardia Airport in New York after flying in from Montreal. Police returned him to California and on May 14, 2005, he began serving his sentence 19 years after it was imposed. As a sex offender, he had to submit a DNA sample and palm print.
In May 2007, Su Go was released and deported to Canada. “Somebody from the United States should have notified Canadian authorities,” Reilly said. Less than a month later, a California crime lab matched Su Go’s DNA profile to hair and fibres collected at Hoffschneider’s apartment. “The DNA technology caught up to him.” Reilly said. The officer learned Su Go was gone. “We missed him by three and a half weeks.” Reilly contacted the Toronto police fugitive squad which arrested Su Go on a murder warrant in Toronto’s north end on Oct. 25, 2007.
Last Thursday, the Supreme Court of Canada ended his quest to avoid deportation. That night, Su Go, 53, was found dead in the Toronto (Don) Jail. Suicide is suspected.
“There are lessons to be learned,” Reilly said of the case. “The ball got dropped somewhere along the line on both him becoming a citizen of your country and him flying back and forth and never being caught in all those years.”