Murder of former Windsorite resolved after almost 50 years

Melissa Rehorek, 20, was murdered in September 1976 in Calgary.

Warning: contains graphic content.

Her death had been an unsolved murder until last Friday, when authorities identified the person they believe strangled her to death.

“No investigation, no matter how successful, can undo the damage caused by crimes of this nature,” RCMP Superintendent David Hall said at a May 17 news conference. “The tireless dedication of all RCMP employees and our partners allows us to provide answers to the families of the four young women who were robbed of their future.”

Police believe Gary Allen Srery is responsible for Rehorek’s murder due to advances in genetic testing.Gary Allen Srery is shown in the photographs supplied. (Supplied: RCMP)

Advances in DNA

In 1976, agents collected seminal fluid from Rehorek’s body even though the technology to identify the suspect did not yet exist.

By 2003, technology had improved enough to create a profile for the DNA sample collected from Rehorek’s body.

It was uploaded to a national database but went 20 years without a positive result.

In 2021, the Alberta RCMP and the Calgary Police Service formed a partnership to re-examine cold case evidence using investigative genetic genealogy (IGG).

“Convergence IGG genealogists were able to begin building a family tree,” Hall said, which in turn was uploaded to consumers’ genetic data banks; used by people trying to locate long lost relatives.

That work created a “suspicious hypothesis” that officers used to advance their investigation in the United States.

Suspect located

They tracked the suspect to Idaho State Prison, where they believed Srery was serving a life sentence for rape.

However, they discovered that Srery died of natural causes in 2011.

With the help of Interpol and the Idaho State Police, Srery’s DNA matched the sample collected from Rehorek’s body, according to Hall.

Police also compared his DNA to three other murders of young women, all committed in 1976 in Calgary.From left to right: Patricia (Patsy) McQueen, Eva Dvorak, Melissa Rehorek and Barbara MacLean appear in provided photos. (Supplied: RCMP)

If he were alive, police say Srery would face multiple charges, including the first-degree murder of Melissa Rehorek.

Connection from Rehorek to Windsor

According to Alberta RCMP, Rehorek is originally from Windsor and moved to Calgary in the spring of 1976.

CTV News was unable to locate any of his relatives.

Here is the statement from the Rehorek family, given to the Alberta RCMP.

“First of all, we want to thank the team of investigators who have worked to find the person responsible for these crimes. Our message is that Melissa is a fun-loving, adventurous and hard-working person. She was an honest and positive person who trusted people. She liked to travel to Banff because of her love of nature, but also because of her curiosity to know Canada. Our family appreciates all the help from her.”

Police say Rehorek was working as a housekeeper at the time of her death and had been living at the YMCA in downtown Calgary.

She was last seen on the night of September 15, 1976.