Man, 60, is arrested for sexually assaulting two women in 1997 after detectives match DNA from a discarded Baskin Robbins spoon to the crime scenes
- Gregory Vien, 60, was charged on November 4 with sexually assaulting two women in Northern California in 1997
- Police identified Vien as a potential suspect in the assaults more than two decades later through cutting edge genetic genealogy software
- He was arrested after detectives surveiling him collected a Baskin Robbins spoon he’d thrown in the trash and sent it in for forensic testing
- The tests revealed a DNA match to the suspect in both assaults
- Authorities have said they believe Vien may have assaulted additional victims
A Northern California man has been arrested for sexually assaulting two women in 1997 after his DNA was recovered from a discarded Baskin Robbins spoon and linked to both crime scenes 22 years later.
Police identified 60-year-old Gregory Paul Vien as a potential suspect in the 1997 assaults more than two decades later through genetic genealogy, a cutting edge investigative tool used to solve countless cold cases in the past few years.
Vien, of Livermore, was arrested earlier this month after detectives surveiling him collected a Baskin Robbins spoon he’d thrown in the trash and sent it in for forensic testing, which revealed a DNA match to the suspect in both assaults, the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office said in a statement Monday.
Authorities have said they believe Vien may have assaulted additional victims.
Gregory Vien, 60, was arrested earlier this month for two 1997 sexual assaults in Alameda County, California, after his DNA was recovered from a discarded Baskin Robbins spoon and linked to both crime scenes (stock image)
The first assault Vien is facing charges for occurred in Union City in May 1997.
The victim was walking toward a public transit station after work when a man dragged her to a secluded area, cut her clothes off with a knife and sexually assaulted her, according to a probable cause document.
The suspect’s DNA was recovered from the victim’s clothes.
Four months later in September 1997, another woman was attacked by a man while walking past Livermore High School.
The suspect pulled her from the bleachers, pinned her to the ground and sexually assaulted her, investigators said.
DNA found at the second crime scene was linked to the suspect in the first attack.
The samples were submitted to the national law enforcement database CODIS, but no match was found.
More than 20 years later, as law enforcement agencies across the country began revisiting cold cases with genetic genealogy, investigators went back to the 1997 Livermore case and the DNA samples to a genetic lab in July.
A chromosomal DNA profile identified Vien as a possible suspect, prompting detectives to put him under surveillance and ultimately link his DNA to the case.
Police identified Vien as a potential suspect in the 1997 assaults more than two decades later through genetic geneaology. Vien’s home in Livermore is pictured above
Vien was charged with multiple felony counts for the two 1997 assault cases on November 4 and was arraigned four days later.
He is due to appear in court to enter a plea on Wednesday.
The Livermore Police Department has said Vien have been responsible for three additional unsolved sexual assaults with similar characteristics that occurred in Livermore between 1995 and 1997.
An investigation into those three cases is ongoing.
WHAT IS GENETIC GENEALOGY?
In the past year, investigators across the country have embraced genetic genealogy, a DNA-dependent forensic technique that identifies suspects through their relatives.
The technique involves cross-referencing the DNA profile of an unidentified suspect with public databases containing DNA from users who’ve submitted samples to consumer companies such as 23andMe and Ancestry.com to explore their family tree and get informed about potential genetic health concerns.
Genetic genealogy gained notoriety through decades-old cold cases like the Golden State Killer, and police are now using it on fresh cases as well.
While many are excited by what genetic genealogy means for the future of forensic investigations, others have expressed concerns about genetic privacy and policy procedures.