26 years later, sister wants OPP to use new techniques to find Sonya Cywink's killer

People aren't talking to police, so Meggie Cywink wonders if they'd talk to her instead.

OPP and retired lead detective believe someone knows something

Sonya Nadine Cywink was found dead on Iona Road in the Township of Southwold, Elgin County, in August 1994. There is a $60,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest and conviction of anyone responsible for her death. (Ontario Provincial Police)

The sister of a London, Ont., woman whose death has gone unsolved for 26 years wants Ontario Provincial Police to let her help investigate the case.

Sonya Cywink's body was discovered Aug. 30, 1994 at Southwold Earthworks in Elgin County.

It's a piece of property that contains the archeological remains of a village, originally inhabited by the Attiwandaron, or the Neutral Iroquois, southwest of London.

"Twenty-six years have passed, people soften, people have a conscience," explained Meggie Cywink, Sonya's older sister. But they also clearly don't want to talk to police, she said.

"So would it be in the best interest of police to actually have a family member communicating with individuals that may have information leading to the persons or person who murdered her? I think yes."

In 2017, Cywink was hired by the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General to work with families through the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Inquiry. She has also been pushing relentlessly for answers about her own sister's death.

Meggie Cywink holds a picture of her sister Sonya, whose murder remains unsolved. Behind her is Sonya's original headstone that has been refurbished by Fanshawe Fine Art graduate, Holly Pichette. (Sofia Rodriguez/CBC)

The family was involved in an awareness campaign last year, and added $10,000 to a $50,000 reward offered by OPP for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case.

"After 26 years, whatever investigative techniques the OPP have been using obviously have not resulted in any defined or definitive answers," said Cywink.

But when she's suggested to OPP that they involve her in the case, and have her speak to people who might know something, the idea has been shot down. 

"[It's] pretty much out of the question, not going to happen," she said.

Someone knows something

The investigation, when it first began, was led by now retired OPP detective Chris Gheysen.

"There was a team of investigators that worked the case for several months, myself and a partner then worked on it for another half year after that," he explained.

"Sonya's murder has remained unsolved, and the reason for that is people's hesitation, the refusal to co-operate with police over the years," said Gheysen.

Billboards were put up in east London in 2019 to reinvigorate police's investigation into the death of 31-year-old Sonya Cywink in 1994. (Submitted by OPP)

The OPP issued a media release Friday, in which Randy Gaynor, a detective inspector with their Criminal Investigations Branch, said "someone knows something about this case, and we're urging them to step forward."

What makes this investigation different than other historical cases, notes Gheysen, is Meggie.

"There's a family member that's very persistent, very determined, that's maintaining light on the case," he said.

"We know that no new information is going to come in, even if it's open and active, unless somebody's probing, somebody's reaching out to people, knocking on doors and asking questions."

Trusting to a fault

Meggie Cywink was living in Toronto when her sister disappeared.

She said her 31-year-old sibling was supposed to arrive in the city for a Blue Jays game, but didn't show up. A few days later, Cywink felt compelled to go see her family in London.

"I arrived the day before her body was located."

According to OPP, Sonya Cywink was last seen in the area of Dundas and Lyle streets around 2 a.m. Aug. 26, 1994.

Originally from Whitefish River First Nation on Manitoulin Island, Cywink said her sister was living in London with a roommate but wasn't close to other siblings who were living in the area.

"She was fun loving, she would give you anything if she could, she was an excellent cook," Cywink explained. "I think she trusted people to a detriment. That's probably what got her into this situation."

Cywink said her sister was 24 weeks pregnant at the time of her death, and that there are at least three souls who knew what happened: Sonya, her unborn child and her killer.

Though police haven't said where the homicide took place, her sister holds on to the belief that it happened at the historical site near Iona, in Elgin County.

"The only consolation I have is knowing that her last breath and her last moments on earth [were] in a place of our people, and that she was greeted by our people," she said.

"Until I know definitely that she wasn't, then that's a peace in my life … that I want to be able to go to bed with every night and wake up with every day."