CUYAHOGA FALLS, Ohio (WOIO) - An Ohio teenage girl was brutally murdered and for more than 30 years Barbara Blatnik’s killer walked free, but police have finally made an arrest in the case.
Dec. 20, 1987: It started out as a normal day for Donna Blatnik Zanath. She did not know it then, but it was the last time she would ever see her sister alive.
“I remember we were all standing in the kitchen, the four of us, and she said some friends were picking her up and she said they were going to a party at a bike shop,” said Zanath. “I just told her be safe and have fun, and we kissed and that was the last time I ever saw her. She didn’t come home.”
Zanath says her 17-year-old sister she called “Barbie” went to a party at a local bar in Garfield Heights.
“We really don’t know what happened,” she said. “Again, no cell phones, you know what I mean? She was dropped off so he must have got her later at night.”
She said Barbara never made it home that night, but she figured she was just out with friends. Zanath said the next day she went Christmas shopping with her mom and bought Barbara a new blow dryer.
"My mom was just like acting weird, like, ‘Something’s weird, something’s wrong, I feel wrong,’ and when we pulled in the driveway and saw the police cars she said, 'Barbies dead.' She just knew."
Cuyahoga Falls Police found Barbara’s body on O’Neil Road near the Blossom Music Center. Police say she was strangled to death.
“This man that killed my sister dumped her out on the road like a piece of garbage, and she had no clothes on, she took off all her jewelry,” explained Zanath. “The only thing that was left on her body was her class ring because it was so snug and that’s how she ID’d my sister was by her class ring.”
On Wednesday, Cuyahoga Falls Police arrested 67-year-old James Zastawnik of Cleveland for the murder. Zanath said they found his DNA underneath her sister's fingernails. She said it was all thanks to the work of the non-profit the Porchlight Project who raised the money to get the DNA test done.
"I don't know if they have words for that feeling,” said Zanath. “I'm shook, that's the only thing I can say. For over 30 years this person has just been out there, and we didn't know who it was and why and now all of the sudden there's a face to the monster."
Zanath said she still has so many questions. She doesn’t know why her sister’s body was dumped 30 minutes away from where they lived and where her sister was last seen.
She also doesn’t know the man who was arrested and has no idea if he knew her sister or why she killed her. She is hoping to get more answers so she can finally have closure after all these years.