Police solve violent 20-year-old cold case in New Westminster

May 2 2017, 6:04 pm

A cold case file in New Westminster that spanned two decades has been solved, police announced this week.

In the early morning hours of October 4, 1996, 79-year-old Dorothy Damel was sleeping in her home when she was viciously attacked.

Her assailant beat her so badly that her cheekbone was shattered and she utlimately lost sight in one of her eyes.

The woman was knocked unconscious and was sexually assaulted as well, said New Westminster Police (NWPD) in a release.

Immediately after the attack,  investigators recovered forensic evidence at the scene and followed up on the “hundreds of tips” that came in from across the province.

An artist’s rendition of the suspect was circulated throughout the media and an appeal for witnesses to come forward was issued as well.

The front page of a local New Westminster newspaper in 1996 reported on the attack. (NWPD handout)

Additionally, a $12,000 reward was offered by the New Westminster Police Board and a private donor for the arrest and charge of the suspect responsible.

Despite all efforts the case seemed to go cold.

A composite sketch of the suspect (NWPD handout)

That is, until March of 2016, when DNA evidence was recovered from the site of a Coquitlam break-in.

The DNA was linked to that of the suspect in the 1996 assault case.

NWPD’s Major Crime Unit investigated further and arrested a suspect.

Now, 48-year-old Vancouver resident James Gray faces a number of charges, including:

  • Aggravated sexual assault
  • Break and enter
  • Forcible confinement
  • Robbery
  • Choking to overcome resistance
  • Uttering threats

“This case, sat idle for two decades,” said NWPD spokesperson Sgt. Jeff Scott. “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.”

Scott’s sentiments were echoed by NWPD Chief Const. Dave Jones – who was one of the officers to originally deal with the case.

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

Eric ZimmerEric Zimmer

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