DNA testing helps Columbia Police Department solve cold cases


A 1984 cold case was solved by the Columbia Police Department on Oct. 27 thanks to advancements in DNA testing.

James F. Wilson, 59, of Mooresville, North Carolina, was arrested in connection with the March 1984 rape and assault of a woman in the 4000 block of Wellington Drive in northeast Columbia. Wilson lived in Columbia at the time and graduated high school here, police said.

Wilson is charged with rape and first-degree assault. Charges were filed Tuesday and unsealed Thursday, according to court records.

Columbia Police Department’s Assistant Chief of Police of the Investigative Operations Support Bureau, Jeremiah hunter said advances in DNA testing helped CPD close the nearly 40-year-old cold case.

“The advancements in forensic science and the ability to take someone’s DNA have advanced so much,” said Hunter.

“Back in 1984, they didn’t have DNA [testing] at the time they used serology,” said Hunter. “The serology would utilize different cells or blood types … that’s what they were fathering those test kits for at the time.”

Hunter said the advancements in DNA testing have allowed police departments to use minuscule amounts of DNA compared to what was needed in the past.

When investigating cold cases, Hunter said “we just have to go through and see that it was stored properly and that there’s enough in it to do what we’re looking for in the present day.”

Hunter said the amount of DNA available to test depends on which lab they go to.

“Some labs can’t test with the amount that we have,” said Hunter, “other times, other labs are more advanced, where they can take just a small amount.”

As far as the 1984 case is concerned, Hunter said officers were able to find a sample from an evidence kit that they attempted to identify for years.

“We got lucky on one aspect of that, and that’s because a relative of a relative of a relative had their DNA out in public,” Hunter said.

The research lab used to test Wilson’s DNA and CPD, contacted the researcher who had done the DNA test on the relative, and identify the family member and reverse engineer to lead police to the suspect.

Hunter said the working relationship with North Carolina law enforcement, and the DNA testing labs has been instrumental in closing cold cases.

“It’s the most important thing for the victim to get closure,” Hunter said.

The Department is working on other cold cases, but could not disclose which ones at this time, so as to not tip off any suspects.

CPD’s Crimestoppers has a list of 15 unresolved murders dating back to 1978. The victims include Leigh Ann Wilson, Peggy Donath, Cinde Kemple-Buchner, Mark Dailey, Donnell Coleman, Charles Bell, Timothy Jones, Rickie Dunn Jr., Gabrielle Rhodes, Edmond Randolph, Michael Walker, Jeffrey Jones, Jamar Hicks, Augustus Roberts and Louis Green Jr.

CPD is asking that if you know any information regarding a cold case to contact the department at (573) 874-7652 or to leave an anonymous tip, call (573) 875-8477. CPD said any calls made to its anonymous Crimestoppers tip line is never traced or recorded, and tip providers are guaranteed to remain anonymous.

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