DNA sample leads to charge in historic sex assault case
A routine DNA order made by a provincial court judge hearing a common assault case may have helped police identify a suspect in a dated sexual assault file.
The victim of the alleged sexual offence stumbled into the Prince George RCMP detachment in the wee hours of Sept. 27, 2007, to report she had been assaulted in the bush area near Connaught Hill. She told investigators a man grabbed her and forced himself on her as she was walked home alone.
Investigators collected from the victim a DNA sample they believed belonged to the offender, but were not able to identify a suspect with it. That all changed recently when a new sample added to Canada's National DNA Data Bank apparently matched the sample taken in the sex assault case, according to Prince George RCMP spokesman Cpl. Craig Douglass. It's alleged the matching sample was provided by 27-year-old Curtis Lee Pierre, who Douglass said also goes by the name Curtis Tom and has been known to live in both Prince George and Fort St. James.
Provincial court records show Tom has a lengthy criminal record for offences throughout the region, ranging from mischief to assaulting a police officer. But in April 2010, when Tom was sentenced on an assault charge from a few months prior, the judge also compelled the accused to provide a DNA sample.
Such samples can be ordered at sentencing for a range of offences - most of them violent - and are added to the National DNA Data Bank. Matching new samples to those from known offenders or collected as evidence in unsolved cases can help police officers identify or exclude suspects from investigations.
It appears from Tom's record that is the only time he was ordered to provide DNA, although Douglass would not confirm that it is the sample involved in the current investigation.
Regardless, once the match came back for the 2007 sexual assault case, investigators in Prince George obtained a warrant to collect another DNA sample from Tom, and later arrested him in connection with the offence. He was charged under the name Curtis Pierre.
"I don't think he was the easiest person to find," said Prince George RCMP spokesman Cpl. Craig Douglass. "But that was probably a pretty long three years for the victim."
Douglass said the expanding DNA data bank and companion identification techniques should lead to even more breaks in historical cases.
Pierre has been in custody since arrest Feb. 9 and is schedule for a bail hearing March 16 in Prince George provincial court.