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California

DNA from Baskin-Robbins spoon links man to two 1997 sexual assaults

Alameda County Dist. Atty. Nancy O’Malley
Alameda County Dist. Atty. Nancy O’Malley announced charges against a suspect prosecutors said was connected to a pair of decades-old cases.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

Twenty-two years after two women were sexually assaulted in Alameda County, officials have identified a suspect in the cases using DNA evidence collected from a Baskin-Robbins spoon.

Alameda County District Atty. Nancy O’Malley announced this week that multiple felony sexual assault charges had been filed against Gregory Paul Vien, 60, of Livermore, Calif.

“For over 20 years, the survivors of these sexual assaults have lived with the constant uncertainty that comes with not knowing when, if ever, their assailant will be identified and brought to justice,” O’Malley said. “The police agencies never gave up, nor let these investigations go cold.”

On May 6, 1997, a man dragged a woman into a secluded area as she walked to a BART station in Union City, Calif., and sexually assaulted her, police said. Four months later, on Sept. 7, officials said the same person assaulted a second woman while she was walking near Livermore High School in Livermore, Calif. DNA samples collected in both cases matched each other, but law enforcement was unable to identify a suspect at the time.

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In 2019, detectives with the Livermore Police Department connected the old DNA samples to a relative through a genetic genealogical database. The match discovered through forensic analysis prompted new leads that resulted in extensive surveillance and the collection of additional DNA from discarded items, including a Baskin-Robbins spoon.

Officials matched the newly collected DNA with the samples from 1997 and identified Vien, whose home in Livermore is about three miles from the site of the attacks. The DNA-matching method has been used in several recent cases, perhaps most notably to identify Joseph James DeAngelo Jr. as the suspect in the Golden State Killer case.

Anyone with additional information can contact Sgt. Steve Goard of the Livermore Police Department at (925) 580-9585.


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