CUYAHOGA FALLS, Ohio — Cuyahoga Falls police have arrested a Cleveland man in connection with the 1987 murder of Barbara Blatnik near Blossom Music Center.
Police said Wednesday in a news release that cold-case detectives used DNA technology to identify James E. Zastawnik, 67, as a suspect nearly 33 years after the slaying. Zastawnik has been charged with murder.
Blatnik, of Garfield Heights, was 17 when officers found her body with apparent strangulation injuries in woods near Blossom Music Center on Dec. 20, 1987.
The Porchlight Project, a Fairlawn-based nonprofit that supports families of people who are missing or murdered, announced in August 2019 that it was partnering with Cuyahoga Falls police to assist in the investigation of Blatnik’s murder by paying for additional DNA tests and genealogical analysis.
“It is great to see justice done for Barbara Blatnik,” Police Chief Jack Davis said in a statement. “The detectives who worked on this over the years never gave up on finding the killer, especially Detective [Randy] Tlumac. This is also a great example of cooperation between law enforcement, the Porchlight Project, and [the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation] coming together to creatively look for a solution to resolving a brutal murder.”
The investigation was a collaboration between police, Ohio BCI, The Porchlight Project and Identifinders International, a California-based company that uses DNA technology and genealogy services to identify persons of interest in law enforcement investigations, military identifications, historical cases and adoption searches.
“We were very pleased to work with the Cuyahoga Falls Police using genetic genealogy to bring closure to the Blatnik family,” said Colleen Fitzpatrick of Identifinders International.
“I am incredibly proud of the work that our Cuyahoga Falls Police Department has done to help ensure that Barbara Blatnik’s family can finally find the closure that they deserve,” said Cuyahoga Falls Mayor Don Walters. “I want to express an immense amount of gratitude to everyone at The Porchlight Project for the funding that they provided to help get the needed DNA testing that was done to close this case. They have done an incredible service to the Blatnik family and our police department.”
Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact Cuyahoga Falls police detectives at 330-971-8318.