Dallas police have arrested a 74-year-old man over a sexual assault case from the 1980s in the city based on an advanced form of DNA testing.
David Thomas Hawkins was arrested in mid-August and charged with one count of aggravated sexual assault.
The Dallas Morning News reported the Dallas County district attorney’s office said the office’s cold case team, the FBI, and the Dallas Police Department collaborated on the investigation.
District attorney John Creuzot said in a statement the case was solved through the use of forensic genetic genealogy analysis. It is the first case of its kind to use this technology to result in an arrest in the area.
Dallas police said the victim in the 1985 sexual assault case requested the case be reopened after police launched a program to clear up sexual assault cases from the 1970s and 1980s in 2005.
DNA evidence from the 2015 case and three related sexual assault cases in Dallas were retested. The Morning News reported the police determined that it matched two similar cases from 1980 in Shreveport, La.
All of the Texas cases were from northeast Dallas from December 1982 to April 1985. Police said that the attacker broke into the victim’s home overnight, and threatened her with a weapon before sexually assaulting her.
The Morning News reported police did not identify Hawkins as a suspect until DNA evidence was subjected to genealogical analysis this year.
Police famously used genetic genealogy analysis in the arrest of California’s infamous Golden State Killer.
Genetic or forensic genealogy combines direct DNA tests with the tracing of a family tree through public records, such as land deeds and birth certificates.
The science remains controversial and has sparked a debate about privacy. The Atlantic reported police officers were uploading crime-scene DNA to genealogical databases with no formal oversight. Leading genealogists disagreed on how far investigators should be allowed into the databases.
Writing in Scientific American, Adam Rutherford highlighted some spectacular failures associated with the technology.
He noted one company failed to identify the sample DNA as coming from a dog rather than a human being. Another analysis found 40 percent of the variants associated with specific diseases from “direct to consumer” (DTC) genetic tests were false positives when the raw data was reanalyzed.
Our attorneys have written about some of the shortcomings of DNA testing in the past including the dangers of basing evidence on home DNA tests.
Please call us at (214) 720-9552 if you or a family member has been arrested in the Dallas area.