Case Studies
Elizabeth Salm Murder Case

Elizabeth Salm Murder Case

Elizabeth Salm, a 59 years old woman was found beaten at the Christian Science Reading Room where she worked on Laurier Avenue West on May 24, 2018 in Ottawa and Tyler Hikoalok, who was 18 at the time, was arrested for being guilty to first-degree murder in the death of Elizabeth Salm.

However, Hikoalok had pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder. As a result of this the trial will now pause until 4 October 2022, when the lawyers representing Hikoalok will have an opportunity to mount a defense.

The prosecutors described the killing as a ‘vicious and brutal attack’ that left Salm clinging to life inside the Christian Science Reading Room on May 24, 2018. She was found by a co-worker hours later and was rushed to hospital, where she died the following day.

The case was informed to the Ottawa police and evidence was collected from the scene. The investigators took swabs of blood from the crime scene and a specialized sexual assault unit collected further samples from Elizabeth Salm’s body in hospital, which were sent for analysis to the Centre of Forensic Sciences (CFS) in Toronto.

Melinda Matte, a scientist expert in bodily fluid identification and DNA analysis and interpretation working in the CFS oversaw DNA testing throughout the investigation into Salm’s death. She told the court that the scientists of CFS were able to extract and build the DNA profile from the semen sample found on the external genitals of the victim.

According to Melinda, the profile was suitable to match with the known reference samples that were already present in CFS files. The CFS testing found a mixture of two DNA profiles in the genital swab that is estimated to be 55 trillion times more likely to originate from Salm and Hikoalok than from an unknown, unrelated individual.

Finally the match was found on 27 May 2018 and the test concluded that the DNA sample was of Tyler Hikoalok. The Ottawa police was informed immediately about the match and he was arrested around 4:30 Pm that same day after two Ottawa police officers had identified him as the male figure seen in video surveillance images taken near the crime scene around the time Salm was killed, according to evidence entered earlier at trial. In fact the two officers recognized Hikoalok from a ‘prior interaction’ he had with police.

Clothes and accessories worn by Hikoalok at the time of arrest were seized by the police. Matte testified that the testing proved positive for Elizabeth Salm’s blood on Hikoalok’s left shoe and on a leather bracelet he was wearing at the time.

She added that the bloodstain on the shoe contains traces of DNA from two people, and Salm and Hikoalok cannot be excluded as the contributors. The DNA mixture was estimated to be 13 trillion times more likely to originate from Salm and one unknown person than if they originated from two other, unrelated people. 

During cross-examination, defence lawyer Michael Smith pressed Matte on the limits to what forensic DNA identification could tell the court. He also suggested that semen found on swabs of Salm’s outer genital area could have been transferred there without sexual intercourse. To which Matte agreed but she cautioned the more complex explanations for depositing genetic material are less likely. 

Explanations on blood spatter patterns from Acting Sgt. Violeta Dimova, a detective with Ottawa police’s forensic identification unit, was also heard by the Crown court. 

The detective said the splatter stains found in the back room of the Christian Science Reading Room originated from the area of a pool of blood as a saturation stain on the carpet by a bookcase, when an external force was applied to Elisabeth Salm’s liquid blood. She also said it appeared the strikes happened low to the ground, lower than 66 centimeters because there were splatter stains on the underside of a desk. 

However on cross-examination Dimova said her analysis is not able to contribute to establishing a timeline or sequence of events.

The Crown closed the case on Thursday, 29 September 2022 morning and the defence is expected to have the opportunity to call its own witnesses and evidence next week. 

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