Violent assault suspect dies

The man charged with the violent sexual assault of a Lower Mainland senior has died.

New Westminster Police Department detectives have used DNA and other evidence to link James Gray to the 1996 sexual assault of Dorothy Darnel.

But last week, the NWPD received notification Gray had died while in custody at a pre-trial centre.

“It is unfortunate that Mr. Gray will not face these matters in a court of law,” said Sgt. Jeff Scott. “However, we are satisfied with the hard work of many investigators which advanced this file to a stage where we were able to arrest and charge Mr. Gray for the attack on Ms. Darnell back in 1996.”

In the early morning hours of Oct. 4, 1996, Darnel, a 79-year-old grandmother was viciously attacked in her home as she slept.

Scott said her attacker beat her so severely that her cheekbone was shattered and she would lose sight in one eye. After Darnel lost consciousness the attacker sexually assaulted her.

Original investigators recovered forensic evidence at the scene and followed up on 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. 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.

“In March of 2016, there was a DNA link between a suspect from 1996 and a recent break and enter in Coquitlam. Our Major Crime Unit investigated the new evidence and have since arrested and charged James Gray, a 48-year-old male from Vancouver,” said Scott.

Chief Cons. Dave Jones was one of the original constables who assisted with the Darnel case.

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

“This case sat idle for two decades,” said Scott. “It would still be unsolved if it wasn’t for the tenacious and persistent efforts of our Major Crime Unit and the critical piece of evidence from the Coquitlam RCMP. Their relentless pursuit of justice will now allow the Darnel family to close a very painful, yet important chapter in their family history.”

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