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4 min

Local cold cases

The death of Ross Magill isn’t the only local unsolved death.

Artist and professor David Buller was 50 when he was killed in his office at 1 Spadina Cres on U of T’s downtown campus. Buller was a 15-year veteran faculty member in the Fine Arts department where he was popular with students.

“He was likely at his computer sitting on his chair writing when the killer came in during the school day on Jan 18, 2001,” says Det Sgt Ken Taylor. “He was stabbed repeatedly in the torso and as he fell from his chair his body hit the computer cord and pulled out the plug.”

Saunders says there was no useable DNA evidence found at the scene and no security camera in the building at that time.

It’s believed that Buller was killed between 1pm when he was spotted near the building that housed his office and 6pm when he was supposed to be teaching a class. His body was not discovered until 7am the next morning when he was found by a caretaker.

“The crime scene was pristine,” says Taylor, adding that robbery has been ruled out as a motive.

“The killer knew where he was going and likely knew him,” says Saunders, adding that Buller’s office space was in an out-of-the-way location.

Saunders says police investigated Buller’s relationships, students and academic colleagues as well as his online life on chat sites including M4M4Sex but identified no suspects.

Taylor, a veteran homicide investigator, says he’s haunted by the case. He says he still sometimes “gets up in the middle of the night thinking of it.”

“It really bothers me… that someone just walked in, stabbed the professor to death and didn’t get caught,” says Taylor.

Saunders says the police worked closely with Buller’s family, friends and colleagues but “exhausted all investigated avenues.”

Toronto police are offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Buller’s killer.

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Cassandra Do was 32 when she was found strangled to death in her 60 Gloucester St apartment on Aug 26, 2003. The investigation into her killing was reactivated in 2008 but “the new DNA match lead did not pan out,” according to Toronto police cold-case squad’s Reg Pitt.

Do, who was transsexual, had been studying nursing at George Brown College and working out of her apartment as a sex worker under the name of Tula.

Det Sgt Craig Samson, who led the initial investigation, says at first there were several good leads. There were phone records for her cell phone and the escort agency Do worked for. The man believed to be her killer made a date with her by phone but it turned out that all the calls had been placed from a pay phone.

There was also DNA found on Do’s body believed to be from the killer. Investigators matched it via the National DNA Databank to a man who beat and sexually assaulted a female sex worker on Jarvis St in 1997. The perpetrator in that attack was described as a tall black man, six-foot, three-inches, between 30 to 40 years old, 230 to 350 pounds and with a shaved head.

Samson says there was another suspect but that he was cleared when his DNA didn’t match the evidence. He adds that he initially thought the case would be a simple one to solve because of the DNA evidence.

“It was very frustrating having the DNA evidence which is an excellent clue and to get no real results in the end,” says Samson, adding that because he knows Do had clients from the US he also tried matching the DNA against US databases.

Samson says he spoke to as many of Do’s clients as he could identify — “she kept no records” — as well as investigating all the phone numbers found on her cell phone but that all his leads dried up in late 2003.

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Janko Naglic, founder and longtime owner of the legendary Church St nightclub the Barn, was found dead in his upscale Davisville home on Oct 27, 2004. His body had been bound and gagged. The coroner determined that the cause of death was asphyxiation.

On Aug 28, 2005 his lover, Ivan Mendez-Romero, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder in connection to his death. He was acquitted last March.

The trial, which lasted a month, was largely comprised of second-hand testimony from friends of Naglic’s who told the court that Naglic told them he had been threatened by Mendez-Romero and that he feared for his life. There had been no direct evidence offered by the Crown to link Mendez-Romero to the crime.

During the following 10-month investigation headed by Det Sgt Peter Callaghan and Det Wayne Banks, police interviewed a number of witnesses who saw Naglic in the days leading up to his death. Detectives canvassed the Church-Wellesley neighbourhood several times and Crimestoppers issued posters and cards that were distributed around the village in the hopes of uncovering new information. There was a $50,000 reward offered for tips leading to the arrest and conviction of the killer. In 2005 Callaghan and Banks conducted interviews in Miami and Ft Lauderdale, Florida where Naglic owned two condos and a yacht.

Banks, lead homicide investigator in the case, says at this point there’s nothing left to investigate and that all evidence led to Mendez-Romero.

“But we have to respect the jury,” said Banks upon hearing the verdict.”

Anyone with new information about the deaths of David Buller or Cassandra Do is asked to contact Det Sgt Reg Pitt at (416) 808-7397. For more on these and other local cold cases go to Cold Cases.

Anyone with new information about the death of Janko Naglic is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (416) 222-TIPS. For more on this story see Jury Acquits Lover of the Death of Janko Naglic.