Falls Lt. Chris Norfolk will not say if Zastawnik was a suspect in the early stages of the investigation. He did say that Zastawnik was “arrested in Akron in July 1984 for exposing himself to two women.” Other than that, he has no criminal history but authorities are still checking.
UPDATE May 7, 2020: Zastawnik plead not guilty at his arraignment in Stow Municipal Court. Due to COVID19 precautions, the arraignment took place via live feed. He is held on a $1 million bond.
In Zastawnik’s appearance, he said that he would retain his own attorney. His family however, says that he does not have sufficient funds. If Zastawnik is indicted by a grand jury, he will be appointed an attorney when he is arraigned in Summit County Common Pleas Court.
I found online that Zastawnik comes from a large family. He has two brothers who were incarcerated for sex crimes. There is also a brother who is missing.
Blatnik’s family never knew Zastawnik before the arrest. “Zastawnik, who worked at Ferrotherm Corporation in Garfield Heights for 34 years, does not have a prior criminal record in either Cuyahoga or Summit Counties.”
James E. Zastawnik was arrested for Blatnik’s murder based on evidence gained through modern DNA technology. The DNA carrying material was found underneath Barbara’s fingernails. It was a mixed DNA sample: 40% was Barbara’s DNA and 60% was from her killer.
“Once the suspect’s DNA was isolated, Fitzpatrick entered it into DNA databases to see if she could get a Y-chromosome match that might provide her the name of a suspect. This didn’t work, but she was able to determine the male suspect was of Eastern European descent.”
Investigators entered the sample into the genealogy GEDmatch and found a third cousin. Then, they made family trees paying attention to ethnicity, age, and geography.
Barbara Ann Blatnik (1971-1987) was just seventeen years old when she died. On December 20, 1987, her nude body was found about 30 miles from her home in Garfield Heights (Ohio). She had been raped and strangled to death. I have not been able to find out whether she was manually strangled or with an object. I guess my questions will be answered in time.
Barbara’s murder became notorious as she was the fourth victim in four months in the Akron area leading the public to believe that a serial rapist/killer was at work.
The first murder was on August 10, 1987. Janice Christensen (31), a computer operator at Cuyahoga Falls General Hospital, went jogging along the Bike and Hike trail in Hudson Township. Her body was found the next day in brush just off the trail. She had been sexually assaulted and stabbed.
Two months later on October 24, 1987, JoAnn Bartholomew (47) from Stow, was murdered behind the Chapel Hill Mall. She had not come home from church. Her abandoned car was found the next day in the mall parking lot. Two days later, police found her body in the woods. She too had been sexually assaulted and stabbed. Her purse and credit cards were later found in the North Hill area of Akron.
On December 15, 1987, Marcia Kay Piotter (36) from Akron, was reported missing after she didn’t come home from playing bingo. Her body was eventually found inside her car that was in the parking lot of an apartment complex on North Pershing Avenue off West Market Street, Northwest Akron. She had been stabbed in the neck and in her upper chest. Unlike the other women, Marcia was not sexually assaulted. Barbara was found one week later.
It will be interesting to see if the authorities check if James E. Zastawnik is tied to any of these cases. More information will be posted as it becomes available.
The authorities can still use your help, anyone with information is asked to call the Cuyahoga Falls Police Detective Bureau at 330-971-8318.