Edmonton police charge Saskatchewan man in 1981 sexual assault of teen girl

The Edmonton Police Service historical crimes section made the arrest by reinvestigating crime-scene DNA. (Codie McLachlan/CBC - image credit)
The Edmonton Police Service historical crimes section made the arrest by reinvestigating crime-scene DNA. (Codie McLachlan/CBC - image credit)

Edmonton police have charged a 65-year-old Saskatchewan man in the sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl more than 41 years ago.

The incident happened on July 9, 1981 as the girl was walking home across a northeast Edmonton school field, police said in a news release Tuesday.

The girl was grabbed, dragged and sexually assaulted by a man who left the area on foot.

The Edmonton Police Service said its historical crimes section made an arrest on Oct. 27 and charged the suspect with rape and acts of gross indecency as in the 1981 Canadian Criminal Code.

The suspect is from Kelvington, Sask., a town of about 800 people 240 kilometres east of Saskatoon.

The man had no relation to the victim, police said.

"We are pleased that we were able to make an arrest in this traumatic assault and are hopeful this will bring some closure for the survivor after all these years," Det. Kevin Harrison said in the news release.

The department began reinvestigating the file in February 2018.

In 2021, investigators pursued investigative genetic genealogy, which compared the crime-scene DNA sample with profiles in commercial databases.

Police said the DNA of an unknown suspect can be uploaded to ancestry databases such as GEDmatch or Family TreeDNA. They are the only publicly available databases which permit law enforcement to conduct searches related to serious crimes.

Investigators discovered information about the suspect after reviewing details about his relatives, and other existing evidence.

In May of this year, RCMP laboratory services confirmed that DNA obtained from the suspect matched evidence DNA from the case.

"I am very hopeful that this new investigative technology will result in charges being made in other historical sexual assault cases," Mary Jane James, CEO of the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton, said in the news release.

Since 2018, the Edmonton police has used investigative genetic genealogy in five cases.

The arrest of the Saskatchewan man marks the first investigation by Edmonton police that has resulted in charges.

Police will reveal further details about the investigation at a news conference at 1 p.m. Tuesday.