DNA Data bank helps Ottawa Police nab man in 1997 sex assault case
Published Wednesday, October 23, 2013 4:44PM EDT Last Updated Wednesday, October 23, 2013 6:56PM EDT
It was a random sex attack on a young girl that stumped Ottawa Police for 16 years.
Now a 45-year-old man has been arrested and police are concerned there may be more victims out there. 45-year-old Francis Charron was picked up on another matter in June, but police say his DNA matched a case that had gone unsolved since 1997.
It was a summer day in June, 1997. An 11-year-old girl was riding her bike along a pathway in Ottawa's Hampton Park area. She was stopped by a man, dragged into the bushes and sexually assaulted.
For 16 years, that case went unsolved until now.
"At the time of the offence we did gather some evidence,” says Ottawa Police Constable Marc Soucy, “DNA evidence and that's puts in the National DNA Data Bank held by the RCMP and eventually that DNA became a match.”
Ottawa Police have charged Charron with sexual assault, sexual interference, invitation to sexual touching, uttering threats and forcible confinement. According to court records, Charron was convicted in June of sexual interference in another case, which he is appealing. That conviction would likely have required a DNA sample.
What led police to make a connection between the 16-year-old case and the man they arrested on August 28th of this year is all part of the investigation. But they are concerned there could be other victims, other cases old and new involving this same.
“Because it was a random act at the time,” says Cst. Soucy, “it is possible there may be other victims.”
Just last week, Ottawa Police laid a charge in a decade old purse-snatching case using the DNA data bank. In the 13 years since it was first established, the Data Bank has collected more than 300-thousand DNA samples. It's assisted in nearly 2-thousand murder investigations and 34-hundred sexual assault cases.
“It's solved now 2 crimes in the matter of a week,” says Soucy. “Maybe those crimes would have remained unsolved for a long time or never be solved. It does help (the investigators) a lot.”
It also reassures women walking the same bike path 16 years later.
"It's very good news, everyone is going to be feeling safer,” says Hampton Park resident Angie Wilson.
“I'm happy they caught him,” says cyclist Rowan Cranston, “but the fact that it took 16 years is surprising.”
The victim, who is now 27, was notified this morning of the arrest of Francis Charron.
"Sometimes victims may tend to believe police aren't working on their file,” says Cst. Soucy, “just because there's no arrest. It doesn't mean we aren't working on it. (This arrest) does bring a sense of closure to the victim that justice may be done now.”