The suspect in the 1987 rape-murder of Barbara Blatnik has passed away of natural causes on Aug 24, 2021.
James Zastawnik (69) was going to trial on October 22, 2021. He was free on $35,000 bond and per court conditions, lived with family.
Cause of death: cancer.
Due to Covid19, many trials have been rescheduled. The courts are trying to clear the backlogs however, it isn’t easy. Most appearances are still by video conference. Zastawnik’s October date might not have been a firm one either. So, there is a small chance that this case would never have been tried in court.
With Zastawnik dead, the Blatnik Family will never hear te full story of what happened in 1987. 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.
Summit County Coroner William A. Cox said in broadcasted interviews that Barbara was killed at an unidentified place and that her body was taken to the wooded area “a couple” of hours before it was discovered. I have not been able to find what led him to that conclusion. Were there any traces or dragging trails or, were there signs that Barbara’s body held traces that were typical for another area than the one in which she was found? For example: if you find gravel in the victim’s hair but they were found on carpet than you have a clue that they may have been murdered elsewhere. That mean, you have multiple crime scenes.
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.
You can find all the posts I wrote about this case here.
Rest in peace, Barbara Ann Blatnik.