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Advanced DNA technology used to identify suspect in 1984 rape, attempted murder case

<i>Iredell County Jail
Iredell Co. Jail, NC/KOMU
Iredell County Jail

By Stephanie Southey

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    COLUMBIA, Missouri (KOMU) — Police say advanced DNA technology was used to identify a suspect in a 1984 rape and attempted murder case in Columbia.

After years of investigation, James Frederick Wilson, 59, was named as potential suspect, Columbia police announced during a community briefing Thursday.

Wilson was arrested at his home in Mooresville, North Carolina, Wednesday. A Boone County prosecutor charged him with forcible rape with a weapon and first-degree assault with a deadly weapon. He lived in Columbia at the time of the assault.

Wilson is being held at the Iredell County Jail in North Carolina on a $1 million bond. He will be extradited to Columbia, but police did not have a timeline.

The March 24, 1984 case happened in the 4000 block of Wellington Drive. Police took the victim to the hospital where medical staff said there was evidence of a sexual assault. Police said the suspect also attempted to cut the victim’s throat, which damaged her trachea and vocal cords.

A team of Columbia police detectives visited the victim Thursday morning, Chief Geoff Jones said at the briefing. She is aware of the arrest and police say other details are being withheld for her privacy.

“She is a survivor. Thirty-eight years is a long time to carry this burden,” Chief Jones said.

Jones said the department isn’t sure how “expansive Wilson’s reign of terror was.”

“People who commit these type of crimes often don’t stop with one,” Jones said. “For that reason, we have established a tip line.”

Jones said he’s not accusing Wilson of any other crimes, but wants to make sure the public knows the department is here to support them.

The tip line can be reached at 573-874-7400, or by email at ColumbiaPoliceTipLine@CoMo.Gov.

The case was assigned to CPD detective Renee Wilbarger in 2020. She was able to use a wide range of DNA databases and help from partner agencies to identify Wilson as a suspect, Jones said.

According to a probable cause statement, a 1981 yearbook photo of Wilson showed a “striking resemblance” to the composite sketch of the suspect. Police also said Wilson’s vehicle on record in a 1985 traffic stop matched the description of the suspect’s vehicle.

DNA pulled from Wilson’s razor came back as a positive match from the DNA found on the victim, according to the statement.

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