DNA double helix. Photo courtesy of National Human Genome Research Institute

With help from the FBI’s Forensic Genetic Genealogy Team, San Diego police have arrested an Arizona man in a series of knifepoint rapes in 1995, authorities said Monday.

Christopher VanBuskirk of Goodyear, Arizona, was booked into Maricopa County Jail on April 29 and extradited to San Diego on Monday, where he will be charged in the 1995 cases, said Lt. Carole Beason of the San Diego Police Department.

VanBuskirk, 46, ended up being identified in six sexual assaults — the latest example of family DNA possibly solving a cold-case crime. The technique gained national attention with the April 2018 arrest of Joseph James DeAngelo as the Golden State Killer.

Beason said four San Diego women were sexually assaulted in San Diego between Aug. 18 and Nov. 17, 1995.

”In each case, the victim agreed to participate in a sexual assault examination to collect physical evidence from the assault,” Beason said. “The DNA evidence recovered revealed the same suspect committed all four crimes, but he was unidentified.”

The San Diego Police Department began taking part in the Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS, in 1999 and entered DNA evidence from these cases but there were no matches.

In March 2002 and November 2004, two more women were sexually assaulted in Riverside County. These women were also sexually assaulted at knife point, and DNA evidence was recovered linking these cases to the same suspect as the 1995 cases in San Diego, the lieutenant said.

But the assailant was still unidentified.

Finally in February, the SDPD Sex Crimes Unit reached out to the FBI Forensic Genetic Genealogy Team for help.

“The group worked together and were eventually able to identify a potential suspect using public access genealogical databases,” Beason said. “The investigation identified direct family members of the potential suspect when their DNA was compared to the DNA profile developed from the evidence at the scene.”

After being identified in April, VanBuskirk was targeted by an arrest warrant from the San Diego
County District Attorney’s Office.

“The San Diego Police Department would like to thank the FBI, Riverside Sheriff’s Office, the Phoenix Police Department, the San Diego Police Department Crime Lab, and the San Diego District Attorney’s Office for their help in solving this sexual assault series,” Beason said.

Anyone with information on these cases or similar cases is asked to call the SDPD’s Sex Crimes Unit at (619) 531-2210 or the Crime Stoppers anonymous tip line at (888) 580-8477.

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