1996 sexual assault cold case solved using DNA analysis

MIDLAND CO., Mich. (WNEM) – On Oct. 31, charges were filed against Douglas Larry Weber, 58, for a 1996 sexual assault case.

The incident happened on Jan. 7, 1996, when an 18-year-old girl’s car broke down on her drive home in the area of Stark Road near Beamish. A young man, a stranger to the victim, stopped to help her push her car off the road and offered her a ride to her home, the Midland County Prosecutor’s Office said.

Instead of taking her home, the suspect drove to a field where he sexually assaulted the victim, the prosecutor’s office said. He told her to get dressed and started driving up the road. The suspect stopped the car when they saw the emergency lights of a police car and the victim was able to escape, the prosecutor’s office said.

The victim ran to her nearby home and the police were called after she told her mother she had been raped. She then went to the MidMichigan Center Emergency Room where a rape evidence kit was collected. Since there was no suspect, the rape evidence kit remained in the Midland County Sheriff’s Office’s evidence room.

In 2016, the State of Michigan made resources available to examine all untested rape kits. The victim’s kit was outsourced to Sorenson Forensics who was able to procure a full male suspect DNA profile. The profile was entered into the Michigan CODIS system in January 2018, but no suspect was identified, the prosecutor’s office said.

Det. Brent Benzing, with the Midland County Sheriff’s Office, arranged for a genetic genealogy DNA analysis with Parabon Nanolabs, Inc., which led to information that was provided to Gene by Gene, the parent company of Family Tree DNA. By process of elimination and further investigation into the most likely biological characteristics of the suspect, Weber was identified as a likely match, the prosecutor’s office said.

On July 22, Benzing met with Weber at the Law Enforcement Center in Midland to interview him regarding the alleged sexual assault from 1996. Benzing collected a DNA sample from Weber which was analyzed by the MSP Crime Lab. Weber’s DNA sample was a match to the DNA collected from the rape kit of the 1996 assault victim, according to the prosecutor’s office.

Weber was arrested on the warrant and arraigned in the 75th District Court on Nov. 2. His bond was set at $500,000 cash or surety, and he was remanded to the Midland County Jail. His case is currently set for a probable cause conference on Nov. 15 and a preliminary examination on Nov. 22.

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