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Published: Monday, 1/9/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

TV show to spotlight area man for work on Alaska murder

Perrysburg native joined troopers after Army stint

BY GABRIELLE RUSSON
BLADE STAFF WRITER
A collection of Alaska State Trooper memorabilia provides a backdrop for Tim Hunyor, and his wife, Sandy Gable Hunyor, in their Portage home. Mr. Hunyor retired after nearly 30 years service. A collection of Alaska State Trooper memorabilia provides a backdrop for Tim Hunyor, and his wife, Sandy Gable Hunyor, in their Portage home. Mr. Hunyor retired after nearly 30 years service.
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PORTAGE, Ohio -- Bonnie Craig was an outgoing, baby-faced teenager who worked at Sam’s Club handing out free samples and dreamed of marrying her boyfriend from California someday.

She was a focused college student, regularly walking to the bus stop about two miles from her house at 5 a.m. to go to the University of Alaska Anchorage.

But on Sept. 28, 1994, hours after she left home for the bus, a hiker found her body floating in a pool of water under a cliff.

For years, Alaskan authorities wondered who would rape and kill the 18-year-old, who was believed to have been alive when she hit the water. How did she end up nearly 20 miles from the bus stop? Where were her belongings and books?

Police interviewed Ms. Craig’s acquaintances and loved ones, followed up on strangers’ tips, and conducted about 100 DNA tests.

But there were no solid leads, no suspects, no arrests.

It seemed like a mystery that might never get solved.

Perrysburg native Tim Hunyor became the chief investigator in the cold case and helped find Ms. Craig’s killer after a DNA sample from a convicted robber in New Hampshire, thousands of miles away, was found to be a match.

The homicide case has brought national recognition for Mr. Hunyor, who retired June 28 and moved back to Ohio. He is to be featured on a Dateline NBC episode scheduled to run Friday.

Mr. Hunyor shrugged at the attention.

“I try not to think about it,” he said, laughing, in his living room decorated with his Alaska State Trooper badges and a brown bear he shot.

His family, especially his sisters Diann Hunyor of Toledo and Tammie Lemle of Bowling Green, feels otherwise about the Dateline show.

“I just couldn’t believe it. He was going to be on my favorite show,” Mrs. Lemle said. “It’s overwhelmingly exciting.”

Mr. Hunyor, a 1970 Perrysburg High School graduate, moved to Alaska in 1975 when he re-enlisted in the Army. He fueled helicopters and did aviation maintenance work for a living.

But in 1979, he left the Army and joined the police department in a small Alaskan fishing village. Two years later, he joined the Alaska State Troopers.

By the mid 1980s, he became a homicide investigator, and it wasn’t uncommon to take boats, airplanes, snowmobiles, and all-terrain vehicles to crime scenes.

Sometimes, it took days to get across the Alaskan terrain.

“I always had two bags packed,” Mr. Hunyor said. “I had a bag with food, several changes of clothing, my sleeping bag, my mat, and my shaving kit. In the other bag was my crime scene kit.”

His former partner described Mr. Hunyor as an expert interviewer who made suspects feel at ease so they would talk.

“Tim’s got that personality. He’s really easygoing; he’s easy to talk to; he’s quick to smile,” said Lt. Lantz Dahlke, a trooper stationed in Fairbanks. “He is tenacious. He’s a pit bull when it comes to working cases. ... Tim was hands down the best partner I ever had in my law enforcement career.”

Meanwhile, back home near Anchorage, Sandy Gable Hunyor reared the couple’s three children and worked as a hair stylist or an elementary school teacher.

Because of her husband’s military service, Mrs. Hunyor was used to him being gone.

When Mr. Hunyor was home, he found peace being outside hunting and camping. It took his mind off the horrors of his job.

“He [investigated] sexual abuses, suicides, homicides — everything,” said Mrs. Hunyor, who grew up in Luckey, Ohio, and attended Eastwood Local Schools. “He’s seen the worst of the worst.”

In the case of Ms. Craig’s death, Mr. Hunyor and the other investigators were stumped.

Every time rookies joined the force, they looked over the files to see if they could find something the veteran investigators had missed.

Ms. Craig’s story stayed high-profile throughout the years.

Mrs. Hunyor remembered seeing the teen’s picture posted on city buses and on a building in Anchorage, and the case even appeared on the television show Unsolved Mysteries.

Mr. Hunyor felt the pressure.

“That’s where it gets very stressful, when you can’t find out what was going on,” he said. “Then you worry if this guy was so blatant with her, is he going to strike again? Several times on my cases I’ve worked over the years, I lost a lot of sleep, just thinking about them. I’d wake up in the middle of the night, ‘Man, why didn’t I think of that?’ “

He wondered if Ms. Craig’s killer was dead.

In 1998, he left Anchorage and became a sergeant at a post in Nome, Alaska. But he still thought about the pretty teenager’s unsolved death, he said.

Two years later, he retired at age 50, and the Hunyors moved back to Wood County near Haskins.

But retirement was short-lived.

After years of police work, Mr. Hunyor, suddenly with an open schedule, was miserable.

“That’s when we went through the hardest time. I was cranky,” he said. “It was in my blood. I missed the job. I missed the work. When they asked me to come back, man, I was happy. I was ready.”

In 2002, he moved back to Alaska to train new investigators, a job he planned to do for one year. It turned into nine years.

In November, 2006, he got a call: Authorities had found a positive DNA match in a national criminal database to semen collected in the Craig case. It belonged to Kenneth Dion, a 41-year-old convicted armed robber incarcerated in New Hampshire.

“We were all ecstatic,” Mr. Hunyor said. “It was the only very confident lead we had.”

Investigators pieced together who Dion was — a drug addict who had been in and out of jail in Alaska over the years for robberies and violating his parole. He was discharged from the Army and did odd jobs. The redhead liked martial arts. Ms. Craig most likely didn’t know her perpetrator, Mr. Hunyor said.

Later that month, Mr. Hunyor and his partner traveled to New Hampshire to interview Dion in prison.

At first he seemed relaxed, eager to talk with them. But when Mr. Hunyor asked if he ever heard of Ms. Craig, Dion changed.

“I showed him her picture, and that’s when his demeanor changed. His voice changed,” Mr. Hunyor said. “His legs started twitching. That’s the stuff we’re looking for. The guys watching through the mirror said they could see his heart pounding through his shirt. I put the picture on the table next to him, and he couldn’t take his eyes off the picture.”

Dion denied ever meeting or knowing the teenager.

A second DNA test confirmed the same results as before, Mr. Hunyor said.

During Dion’s trial last year, his defense claimed the two had consensual sex and Ms. Craig died after accidentally falling from the cliff.

On June 15, a jury found Dion guilty of rape and murder. On Halloween, he was sentenced to serve 124 years in prison.

Mr. Hunyor retired after testifying during the trial. Now living in Portage near Bowling Green, Mr. Hunyor, 60, works part time in the hunting department at Bass Pro Shop in Rossford and spends time with his family and in yard work.

After more than two decades of late-night phone calls, cold-case investigations, and other detective work, Mr. Hunyor said he is finally enjoying his retirement.

“I can put it behind me now,” he said.

“I don’t want to think about it any more. I want to retire. I can sleep at night.”

Contact Gabrielle Russon at: grusson@theblade.com, or 419-724-6026.

 



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