Niles police release details on investigation to link suspect to 1992 murder
by JASON MEREL
A man is in custody in Texas awaiting extradition to Illinois after he was charged with the murder of Helen K. Cardwell at the Niles Leaning Tower YMCA in 1992 after the case was reopened and DNA evidence implicated him in the homicide, according to Niles police.
"While nothing can bring back Helen Cardwell, I’m glad the Niles Police Department was able to give some form of closure to her family," village Mayor George Alpogianis said at a press conference on Oct. 27 at the Niles Police Department, 7000 W. Touhy Ave.
Richard Sisto, age 72, was charged in connection with the murder after a warrant for his arrest was issued on Oct. 15 after DNA evidence collected in 1992 was a possible match to his DNA profile, police said. Sisto is in custody at the Harris County sheriff’s department for a parole violation and will be extradited to Illinois after his Texas legal proceedings are complete.
On Nov. 8, 1992, Cardwell, age 35, was found deceased in her room by family members and a maintenance worker of the YMCA. The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office at the time determined strangulation was the cause of death, police said.
Cardwell moved to the residential tower of the Niles Leaning Tower YMCA from New Jersey a few months prior to her death and was due to start a job at Lutheran General Hospital in early November of 1992, police said.
Niles detectives worked the case into early 1993 until the case "went cold" due to lack of investigative leads, according to Niles detective sergeant Mike Boba.
"At the time of this homicide, DNA evidence was not prevalent as it is today," Niles police chief Luis Tigera said.
In November of 2020, the Niles Police Detective Bureau re-opened the case and submitted numerous pieces of evidence collected in 1992 to the Northern Illinois Regional Crime Lab for analysis.
"We knew with technology and things that have improved that we may have a real opportunity to gain some traction on it," Boba said. "In the early 90s, that wasn’t there."
Analysts at the crime lab extracted a DNA profile from the submitted evidence and the profile was run through the Combined DNA Index System, known as CODIS.
CODIS revealed the DNA that was extracted was a possible match to the DNA profile of Sisto, police said.
Sisto was originally paroled to Illinois from Texas following a 1977 conviction for aggravated rape in Dallas County. At the time of the murder, Sisto was living and working in the area of the Leaning Tower YMCA.
In 2005, Sisto was arrested by the Schaumburg police department on a parole violation warrant issued by the Texas Parole Board and charged by the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office for failing to register as a sex offender, police said. Sisto was transferred back to the custody of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in late 2005, where he was released on parole in Texas in early 2006. An additional arrest warrant was issued for Sisto for parole violation in May of 2006.
An investigation by Niles police revealed that Sisto was taken into custody recently on the 2006 warrant in Texas.