DNA evidence led to arrest in 1992 murder of woman in Niles, police say

Chicago News

NILES, Ill. — Niles police provided more details in a cold case homicide dating back to 1992.

During a press conference Wednesday morning, investigators in Niles revealed details about the victim and suspect in a nearly 30-year old cold case.

On Nov. 8, 1992, 35-year-old Helen Cardwell’s sister and brother-in-law found her dead in her room at the Leaning Tower YMCA.

Cardwell had moved from New Jersey for a job at Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge.

Investigators said strangulation was the cause of Cardwell’s death. The case was closed in 1993 due to a lack of leads, however.

In November 2020, members of the Niles Police Detective Bureau reopened the case.

After entering evidence to the Northeastern Illinois Crime Lab, DNA evidence connected 72-year-old Richard Sisto — who was not an initial suspect — to Cardwell’s homicide.

“The crime lab was able to extract DNA from some of the samples that were submitted. That DNA was entered into the system and the results of that were the identification of Richard J. Sisto as the suspect in this 1992 murder,” said Detective Sgt. Mike Boba.

Investigators took about 11 months to locate Sisto. When authorities discovered Sisto’s whereabouts, law enforcement learned he was already in custody for a parole violation warrant in Harris County, Texas.

He remains in a Harris County jail will soon be extradited to Illinois. Officials did not give a specific time frame.

Authorities said Wednesday that Sisto has a criminal past.

Before Cardwell’s murder, Sisto was paroled to Illinois from Texas in April of 1992. In the 1970s, Sisto was convicted of sex crimes.

“Sisto was on parole as the result of a 1977 conviction in Dallas County, Texas for a sexual assault,” said Detective Sgt. Mike Boba.

Cardwell’s sister Noca Ervin shared her gratitude with detectives for continuing to pursue the cold case.

“I just want to express my gratitude to the Niles Police Department for solving the murder of my sister,” she said. “I’m so grateful that they decided to reopen this case and I just appreciate everyone’s effort in solving the murder. I just want to say thank you so much.”

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