The man recently charged in the decades-old murder of a Niles woman was a registered sex offender at the time of the killing, police said Wednesday.
Police offered few new details about Richard J. Sisto’s life during the past 30 years or how he allegedly ended up in the apartment of Helen K. Cardwell, who was found strangled in her room at the Leaning Tower YMCA in Niles on Nov. 8, 1992.
But Niles police said they have interviewed Sisto, who was being held Wednesday on $1 million bail in Harris County, Texas.
At the time of her death, Cardwell, 35, had recently moved to the Chicago area from New Jersey, and was due to start work at Lutheran General Hospital. She was found in her room by her sister and a brother-in-law, who had come for a weekly visit, police said.
Detectives worked the case until 1993, but the case went cold due to a “lack of investigative leads,” police said.
Niles police reopened the case late last year, submitting “numerous pieces of evidence” to the Northeastern Illinois Regional Crime Laboratory in Vernon Hills. The DNA from some of the samples matched Sisto’s DNA, police said.
Sisto had been living and working in the Niles area at the time of Cardwell’s slaying, police said. He was on parole for a 1977 aggravated rape conviction out of Dallas, Texas, police said.
But police initially had no luck finding Sisto after the DNA match in late 2020.
“He had completely gone off the radar. He was living dark. He was nowhere to be found,” Niles Detective Sgt. Michael Boba said.
Then in August of this year, a police database search revealed that Sisto, now 72, was in jail in Texas, on a 2006 parole violation warrant, police said.
Niles detectives traveled to Texas, where they interviewed Sisto and took a DNA sample, police said. Investigators wouldn’t divulge details of the interview. Sisto was charged earlier this month with Cardwell’s murder and is awaiting extradition.
Cardwell’s sister, Noca Ervin, stood with Niles police Wednesday and spoke briefly, without answering questions.
“I’m so grateful that they decided to reopen this case, and I just appreciate everyone’s efforts in solving her murder,” Ervin said.