‘He saw it coming:’ New technology, detective work lead to arrest in 1970s murders

Posted at 4:58 PM, Sep 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-11 18:58:19-04

TALLMADGE, Ohio – After nearly five decades of dogged detective work, investigators have finally solved two disturbing murders from the 1970s.

Both young female victims were abducted, sexually assaulted and then stabbed more than a dozen times before their bodies were dumped along the side of a road.

“We don’t give up and you never close a murder case,” Tallmadge Police Chief Ron Williams told WJW. “We really represent the victims and in this case, we’re standing up to a bully who brutalized women in the 70s.”

Gustave Sapharas, 75, was arrested without incident at his apartment on Independence Circle Northwest Friday, following an eight-count indictment in Summit County.

"I’m sure he saw it coming. He wasn’t terribly surprised when they came to arrest him," Williams said.

Sapharas is suspected in the murder of Karen Bentz on April 28, 1970. Williams said the 18-year-old from Akron was abducted near Akron City Hospital on East Market Street and then her body was dumped in a berm along Indian Hills Drive in Tallmadge.

The chief said she had been stabbed at least a dozen times and, according to the indictment, Bentz’ body was badly disfigured, suggesting she was tortured before she died.

Sapharas also suspected in the murder of Loretta Jean Davis, 20. She was abducted from Tallmadge and her body was found in Portage County along Congress Lake Road on Sept. 28, 1975.

Tallmadge police told WJW they developed new evidence in 2013 that led them to Sapharas.

Williams said he can’t specifically discus the evidence, but credits, “New technology, a fresh set of eyes and great, great detective work.”

Sapharas was previously convicted of rape in the late 1970s and served time in prison.

More recently he was charged with a different cold case: the 1991 brutal murder of a young mother in Licking County. However, a jury found him not guilty despite his confirmed DNA being found on her body.

Sapharas is currently being held in the Summit County Jail. His indictment includes charges of murder, maiming or disfiguring, aggravated murder, kidnapping and attempted rape.