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EPD says decades-old serial murder cold case solved

Brian Bull/EPD
A 2018 EPD press conference (left) where Snapshot Phenoytping was explained; a 1988 sketch of the murder suspect (right.)

Eugene police investigators say they’ve solved a serial killer case that goes back to the late 1980s.

Between June 1986 and February 1988, Gladys May Hensley, Janice Marie Dickinson, and Geraldine Spencer Toohey were all found murdered across the city. The latter two victims had been sexually assaulted.

Using DNA technology developed by Parabon Nano Labs beginning in 2017, EPD detectives were eventually able to identify a suspect now identified as John Charles Bolsinger of Springfield.

Images provided by Eugene Police Dept.
(Clockwise, from top L): John Charles Bolsinger; Gladys Hensley; Geraldine Toohey; and Janice Dickinson

Bolsinger had served a five-year sentence for murder in Salt Lake City in 1980, and was paroled to Springfield in March 1986, just months before the first of two homicides now attributed to him. He’d be arrested for burglary in September that year, serving time in the Utah State Prison until December 1987. A few months later his third victim, Toohey, was found murdered in her Eugene home.

EPD police say Bolsinger committed suicide in his Springfield apartment in 1988. Authorities say they’re pleased to finally bring closure to the victims’ families.

Anyone with information on Bolsinger is encouraged to call Detective Jennifer Curry at 541-682-5166 or to email her at jcurry@eugene-or.gov

The full EPD release issued Feb. 2, 2022:

 On June 5, 1986, at approximately 2:42 p.m., Eugene Police and Eugene Fire Medics responded to an apartment at 255 High Street regarding deceased person Gladys May Hensley, age 62, who was located during a welfare check by an apartment employee after she had not been seen for several days. The investigation revealed that the death of Hensley was a murder and that it was likely that she was killed in the early hours on June 4, 1986. Police were unable to locate the involved suspect, however, similarities in the murder and evidence at the scene connected the suspect with two additional murders, one that occurred in the same month and the other in February 1988.  

Hensley`s murder was connected to the June 19, 1986 murder of Janice Marie Dickinson, investigated by the Eugene Police Department, and the February 28, 1988 murder of Geraldine Spencer Toohey, investigated by the Oregon State Police. Dickinson, a 33-year-old white female, was found murdered behind the car dealership at 20 Coburg Road, Eugene. She was naked and had been sexually assaulted. Her death was attributed to brutal homicidal violence. Toohey, a 73-year-old white female, was found in her residence, on the 5400 block of Franklin Boulevard. Evidence of forced entry into the residence was discovered.  Toohey had been sexually assaulted and her death was attributed to brutal homicidal violence. 

Several persons of interest were developed and thoroughly investigated over the years and were excluded through DNA comparison. All three cases lacked any strong leads. In 2016, a new technology came to market, from Parabon Nano Labs, allowing the inference of physical characteristics of individuals based on DNA information. This service, Snapshot Phenotyping, was employed in this case and in September 2017 Eugene Police Investigators received the results.

The detailed Snapshot Report was released by EPD in 2018 and Detectives were hopeful it would generate new leads in the cases.  The Eugene Police Department’s Violent Crimes Unit established a dedicated tip line for the cases.  More than 100 tips were received and followed up on by VCU Detectives but all of the names provided were eliminated as suspects. 

In May 2018, Parabon Nano Labs began offering Genetic Genealogy.  This service was employed by VCU Detectives shortly thereafter.  Ultimately, four potential suspects were identified.  After extensive follow-up, and the analysis of additional evidence, the suspect was identified as John Charles Bolsinger, date of birth September 17, 1957.  VCU Detectives learned John Bolsinger died in Springfield, Oregon on March 23, 1988 and that his death was ruled a suicide.  VCU Detectives were able to establish a timeline for John Bolsinger from 1975-1988.  While establishing this timeline, VCU Detectives learned John Bolsinger was arrested for murder in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1980 and ultimately served a five-year prison sentence before being paroled to Springfield, Oregon on March 7, 1986.  Approximately three months later, Gladys Hensley was discovered murder.  Two weeks later, Janice Dickinson was discovered murdered. 

VCU Detectives learned John Bolsinger was arrested for burglary by the Springfield Police Department on September 26, 1986.  A review of that investigation revealed the following: 

On September 26, 1986, SPD Patrol Officers were dispatched to the 300 block of South 51st Place regarding a burglary in progress.  Upon arrival, officers heard the female complainant screaming and learned the suspect had fled the residence.  The female victim told officers she was at home and having trouble sleeping.  She heard her dog making strange noises in the kitchen, so she went to investigate.  All of the interior lights were off.  There was a light on outside, at the rear sliding door.  She saw a suspect peering through her kitchen window.  She saw the window slide open and then the suspect reached inside and removed a brace in the slider.  She ran back to the living room and called 911.  While on the phone, she saw the suspect walk into the living room.  He stood still for a moment and then approached her.  She started screaming as the suspect tried to pull the phone from her hand.  She started striking the suspect with the phone and a flashlight.  The suspect fled through the kitchen window.  He left behind a down vest and paring knife.  The suspect, John Bolsinger, ran from police, but he was captured by an SPD K9 Officer and his K9.  The suspect claimed he knocked at the door 3-4 times and then walked away when he didn’t get an answer.  He claimed to have memory loss when questioned further.

John Bolsinger was ultimately convicted and sentenced to five years prison in the Oregon Department of Corrections.  John Bolsinger was transferred from the Oregon Department of Corrections to Utah State Prison on August 4, 1987.  John Bolsinger remained in Utah State Prison on a Parole Violation until December 8, 1987.  On December 11, 1987, he enrolled at Lane Community College for the 1988 Winter Term.  On February 28, 1988, Geraldine Toohey was discovered murdered in her residence on Franklin Boulevard.  This case was investigated by the Oregon State Police and was highly publicized.  On March 5, 1988, the Oregon State Police released a sketch of the suspect in hopes of generating leads.  On March 23, 1988, John Bolsinger was discovered deceased at his apartment which was located in the 100 block of Mill Street in Springfield, Oregon. 

The Eugene Police Department and the Oregon State Police are pleased to finally bring closure to the family members of Gladys, Janice, and Geraldine, as well as our community.  Both agencies remain committed to constantly evaluating unsolved cases and utilizing emerging technologies to bring closure to other families of crime victims. 

This resolution would not have been possible without the dedication of numerous police officers, detectives, crime scene investigators, and crime lab analysts over the last 35 years.  


Copyright @2022, KLCC.

Brian Bull joined the KLCC News Team in June 2016. In his 25+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (19 regional), the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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