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New Westminster Police believe they've cracked 20-year-old cold case

Last Updated May 2, 2017 at 9:39 am PDT

The original suspect sketch. (Courtesy New Westminster Police Department)

79-year-old Dorothy Darnel was assaulted in her New Westminster home in 1996

48-year-old Vancouver man James Gray has now been charged over the crime

NEW WESTMINSTER (NEWS 1130) – New Westminster police have used DNA to find the man they believe is responsible for the sexual assault of a grandmother more than 20 years ago.

79-year-old Dorothy Darnel was viciously attacked in her home early one October morning in 1996. Her attacker beat her so severely that her cheekbone was shattered. After she lost consciousness, the attacker sexually assaulted her. Darnel lost sight in one eye because of the beating.

Original investigators recovered forensic evidence at the scene and followed up on hundreds of tips. An artist’s rendition of the suspect was circulated throughout the media and a $12,000 reward was offered for the arrest and charge of the suspect responsible.

In March last year, a connection was made between DNA from a 1996 suspect, and a recent break-and-enter in Coquitlam. Police have now arrested 48-year-old Vancouver man James Gray in connection with Dorothy Darnel’s assault. He’s been charged with aggravated sexual assault, break and enter, forcible confinement, robbery, choking to overcome resistance, and uttering threats.

“This case sat idle for two decades,” says Sergeant Jeff Scott in a New Westminster Police Department news release. “It would still be unsolved if it wasn’t for the tenacious and persistent efforts of our major crime unit and the piece of evidence provided by the Coquitlam RCMP. Their relentless pursuit of justice will now allow the Darnel family to close a very painful, yet important chapter in their family history.”

Chief Constable Dave Jones assisted with the Dorothy Darnel case back in 1996.

“It means a great deal to me to see this 20 year old case has come to a close,” stated Chief Constable Dave Jones, “Mrs. Darnel was a strong woman who shared this experience with other seniors and empowered them to take steps to protect their own safety.”
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