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Drifter Found Guilty Of 1978 Murder Of Teen Found Stabbed To Death In Buffalo Cottage

Drifter John Sauberan was convicted of murdering 19-year-old Linda Tschari, who was brutally attacked in her parent's home in 1978.

By Jax Miller
5 Infamous Cold Cases of Murder

A man has been convicted for the brutal stabbing of a young woman that took place more than four decades ago.

John Sauberan, 63, was found guilty on Tuesday for the murder of 19-year-old Linda Tschari, who was “butchered” in a carriage house behind her family’s Buffalo, New York home in 1978, according to the Erie County District Attorney’s Office. Jurors arrived at the verdict after about three hours of deliberations following the end of a five-day trial.

Sauberan, who lived about a half mile from Tschari’s cottage residence at the time of her death, was found guilty as charged with a single count of second-degree murder.

“The family of Linda Tschari has waited more than 44 years for her murder to be solved,” stated Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn. “I hope that they feel justice has been served by this defendant being found guilty today.”

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Prosecutors say Tschari, a bartending student who lived alone, was caught by surprise when her killer attacked her in bed with a sharp object. On the afternoon of Feb. 8, 1978 — after not hearing from her that morning — Tschari’s mother sent her 18-year-old son to check on his sister and found her face-down in a pool of blood on the guest house’s living room floor.

At the time, a historic blizzard had rocked the northeast, and in the snow, a trail of the killer’s blood led away from the home. Blood was also found in several rooms inside and on several items, including a Grand Funk Railroad vinyl record cover.

Investigators with the Buffalo Police Department notified local hospitals and medical centers in hopes that the killer — who was believed to have accidentally injured himself in the vicious attack — would seek medical treatment for a knife injury.

Police handout of cold case victim Linda Tschari

No such incident was reported, and eventually, the case grew cold.

Police reexamined the case upon establishing the cold case unit in 2006. One year later, the Erie County Central Police Services Laboratory took a fresh look at the suspect’s blood, but at the time, the sample wasn’t suitable for submission into a national database, and investigators were no closer to identifying a suspect.

Following a new look in 2019, Sauberan was arrested in March 2020 after the blood sample matched Sauberan, whose DNA was submitted into the database following a 2008 arrest in Oregon.

“The DNA evidence became a witness and provided you with evidence no other witness could,” said Assistant District Attorney Ashley Morgan in Tuesday’s closing arguments, according to The Buffalo News.

Sauberan’s attorneys, on the other hand, challenged the integrity of the DNA samples after more than 40 years in storage.

They also questioned the possibility that blood at the 1978 crime scene might have been contaminated, according to the Buffalo outlet. For example, the defense proffered that a police radio placed on Tschari’s table — as photographed at the crime scene — proved contamination was possible. They also theorized that fingerprint brushes could have transferred the suspect’s DNA from previous and unrelated crime scene investigations.

“If you believe it’s reasonably possible it was contaminated, you must find Mr. Sauberan not guilty,” said defense attorney Paul Dell in his closing arguments.

Ultimately, the jury found Sauberan guilty of second-degree murder. According to the Buffalo News, Dell was disappointed by the verdict and said he plans to appeal.

Both the defense and the prosecution agreed that Sauberan and Tschari did not know one another. During the trial, District Attorney Flynn referred to the defendant as a “drifter” who held many addresses around the country, including New York, Oregon, Florida and Georgia.

Sauberan faces a maximum of 25 years to life, according to the district attorney’s office. He is scheduled to appear before Erie County Court Judge Sheila A. DiTullio on Dec. 13 for sentencing and remains held without bail.

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