CUMBERLAND BEACH, Ontario — Leah Salina Sousa, 13, resided with her single mother, Lora Sousa, 36, and her 9-month-old brother in a small house in the 3400 block of Beachview Avenue in Cumberland Beach, Ontario, roughly 135 km north of Toronto.
Shortly after midnight on Saturday, Sept. 1, 1990, during Labor Day weekend, an intruder broke into the Sousa home and violently attacked Leah’s mother in her bed as she slept while her infant son lay in his crib unharmed.
Leah was sleeping on the couch. The intruder raped her, dragged her out to the backyard, and savagely beat her to death. A neighborhood friend found the girl’s battered and bloody body later that morning.
Police discovered a bloody shoeprint inside the residence and compared the tread pattern, identifying it as a Nike all leather court or tennis shoe in size 9 or 10.
Sousa miraculously survived the attack and spent three weeks in a Toronto hospital guarded by police officers. Authorities did not release the hospital’s name to local media for fear the attacker would finish what he had started.
An autopsy found Leah had died from massive head injuries. Leah and her mother were hit multiple times with what investigators believe was a pipe or tire iron.
Police also believe the attacker knew the family, but Sousa’s brother, Carlos Sousa, disagreed, citing evidence of a forced entry.
“It looks like someone broke the back window and opened the door from the inside,” he said two weeks after the brutal attack.
His statement to the Windsor Star contradicted one he gave the newspaper in the days immediately following the attack. He stated he believed Leah knew the person responsible for the vicious crime.
“I think it was someone she knew. It doesn’t look like anyone forced their way in,” Carlos Sousa said shortly after the murder.
At the very least, the killer likely knew the family was home alone and was familiar with the area.
The brutality of Leah’s murder shocked law enforcement and the community. People started keeping their children inside, doors locked, and carried weapons for protection.
Since the murder nearly 31 years ago, investigators have conducted more than 1,500 interviews and followed dozens of leads, but nothing has led them to Leah’s killer. As bloody as the crime scene was, the killer left none of his DNA behind, and police never found the murder weapon.
The answers to who brutally attacked and killed Leah and left her mother for dead lies with Sousa.
Unfortunately, she does not remember the events of Sept. 1, 1990, but police believe she saw her daughter’s killer. Sousa has tried various methods, including hypnosis and injecting truth serum, but failed to recall any details due to the horrific injuries she suffered that fateful night.
The attack left her with permanent injuries, including blurred vision, dizzy spells, and partial hearing loss.
Although Leah’s killer has never been caught, one man popped up on investigators’ radar.
Four months after the attack on the Sousas, Brian Timothy Elson stabbed and killed Sandra Bannister, 17. He spent only six years in prison for the crime.
In 2010, CTV W5 reported that Elson’s grandmother lived just down the street from the Sousas. Police believe he was in Cumberland Beach the night of the murder.
W5 tracked down Elson, and reporter Sue Sgambati asked him about Leah’s murder. He denied involvement and said the police had accused him of it and even arrested him at some point but never charged him with the crime.
Last year near the 30th anniversary of Leah’s murder, Simcoe News spoke with the sister of one of Leah’s friends. She said her family had planned to bring Leah to the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) in Toronto on Sept. 1, 1990. The girl’s sister planned on spending the night with Leah on Aug. 31st. In a twist of fate, their mother forgot that she had promised the girl’s brother that he could bring a friend along, so there would not be enough room for Leah. The friend did not stay the night. If she had, she would’ve been the third victim.
After the brutal attack, the Sousa house was repossessed and sold at a loss.
Sousa interviewed with CTV News in 2016, but it does not appear she has publicly spoken about her daughter’s murder since. She still does not remember the events of that horrible night and gets frustrated because she knows the answers to the identity of Leah’s killer lies inaccessible within her memories.
Police continue investigating Leah’s murder. There is a $50,000 reward for any new tips in the brutal 1990 murder. Anyone with information related to the case can call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.
True Crime Diva’s Thoughts
I don’t have much to say on this, but I believe Elson might have attacked Lora and killed Leah. His criminal background, paired with his grandmother living in the same town, somewhat convinces me. Police believe he was in town at the time of the murder. He brutally killed Sandra Bannister only four months after Leah’s killing.
So I want to know: Did Elson know Lora and Leah?
I’d like to know what Lora and Leah did on Friday, Aug. 31, the day before the attack. If they went to a Labor Day celebration, the killer, possibly Elson, could have seen them there and followed them home, deciding to wait until they were asleep to attack. I believe Leah was the target, and he meant to kill Lora to get her out of the way.
The man had no problem attacking women but did not attack the baby, so even he had his limits, I guess. Maybe an ex-boyfriend of Lora’s?
Who do you think killed Leah Sousa?