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Virginia police arrest man in 1987 homicide

Nearly three decades after 83-year-old Leona Mary Maslowski was found murdered in her Virginia home, her family had all but given up hope that her killer would ever be found.

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Leona Maslowski
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Nearly three decades after 83-year-old Leona Mary Maslowski was found murdered in her Virginia home, her family had all but given up hope that her killer would ever be found.
But an investigation was thrown into high gear in recent months when forensic technology provided new clues about fingerprints found in Maslowski’s apartment, culminating in the Wednesday arrest of 44-year-old Bruce Wayne Cameron.
“It’s a combination of relief and a renewance of all the sadness that went along with it,” Jim Maslowski told the News Tribune hours after his mother’s alleged killer was taken into custody.
Cameron, of Virginia, is set to be arraigned today in State District Court in Virginia on a second-degree murder charge. Police said he confessed on Tuesday to Maslowski’s killing after he was confronted with the fingerprint evidence.
The case may have taken more than a quarter-century to crack, but it was one that the Virginia Police Department was determined to solve, Police Chief Dennis Benz said.
“We never quit working on it,” he said.
The investigation
Maslowski, who was widowed and living alone, was found dead by a friend on Oct. 5, 1987, in her duplex home at 328 Seventh St. S. An autopsy revealed that she had been stabbed, beaten and strangled.
She was believed to have been stabbed with a knife, which was missing from her home and was never recovered. One of the wounds penetrated the right side of her heart, according to the charges. An Old Spice bottle found nearby was also suspected to have been used in the attack.
Despite the physical evidence, there were few leads at the time to indicate who killed her, authorities said. Holding out hope of finding her killer, Benz said police retained all of the evidence collected at the scene and had it periodically tested by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
The big break came with some fingerprints and a palm print that were observed on a door near Maslowski’s body.
“We knew there was some fingerprints but we didn't know who they belonged to,” Benz said. “We kept up with the lab on testing and finally, because Cameron had been in trouble, his prints were in the system. Then we started to talk with him and finally he said some things to us (Tuesday).”
Cameron, then 16, had been at a party in the upstairs unit of the duplex, according to the charges. When interviewed by Virginia police and the BCA in April, he denied involvement.
Agents later received a search warrant, authorizing them to obtain a palm print from Cameron. It was found to be a match for the prints recovered from the door, according to the criminal complaint.
When interviewed on Tuesday, Cameron allegedly admitted that he was at the party and was “most likely drunk.” He said that he went into Maslowski’s residence, looking for alcohol, according to the complaint.
He said he was confronted by Maslowski, who was wearing a nightgown, and punched her when he thought she was moving toward the phone. He also said he used an object to hit her in the head and possibly choked her, but did not know of any knife, according to the charges.
Cameron added that he Maslowski was bleeding and on the floor when he left the home empty-handed, the statement said.
Benz credited the persistence of investigators and the work of several agencies, including the BCA, in cracking the cold case.
“The whole thing came together because of the cooperation between different law enforcement agencies,” he said.
A call to Cameron’s current residence - just a block from the site of Maslowski’s death - was answered by his sister, Susan Cameron.
She maintained that police were “slandering” her brother and said they forced a false confession before arresting him.
“I’ve known him all these years. and he’s never hurt anybody,” Susan Cameron said. “I stand by him 100 percent and we’re going to fight this. I know he would never do anything like this.”
‘Quite a character’
Jim Maslowski was enlisted in the Navy and stationed in Annapolis when he received the call about his mother’s death.
Now 71 and living in Wichita, Kan., Maslowski said he has tried to “compartmentalize,” putting the memories out of his daily thoughts, but the emotions return from time to time.
“I visit every once in a while and it brings back both fond memories and sadness,” he said. “But I never expected the case to be resolved. I have to credit the persistence and the professionalism that the police force kept after many years, as well as the advances in modern science that made it possible.”
Leona Maslowski was born on Oct. 7, 1903, in Eveleth and was a lifelong resident of the area. She raised four children with husband Adolph Maslowski, who died in 1981.
Jim Maslowski, one of three surviving children, described his mother as “spirited and animated.”
“She was quite a character,” he said. “Her loss was very shocking. All of us, collectively, miss her dearly to this day.”
The siblings have dispersed throughout the country and there are no close family members left on the Iron Range, Jim Maslowski said. He wasn’t expecting anyone to make it to the arraignment.
But, if Cameron is convicted, Maslowski said he wants to return to see his mother’s killer off to prison.
“All we can hope for at this time is due process,” he said. “We just have to wait for the justice system to do what it does.”

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Bruce Cameron

Related Topics: CRIMEVIRGINIAIRON RANGE
Tom Olsen has covered crime and courts for the Duluth News Tribune since 2013. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth and a lifelong resident of the city. Readers can contact Olsen at 218-723-5333 or tolsen@duluthnews.com.
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