San Diego

DNA Tech Helps SDPD Nab Suspect in 1995 Knife-Point Sex Assaults

SDPD and the FBI used public access genealogical databases to identify a potential suspect.

A man accused in six separate violent sex assaults, four of which date back more than 23 years, was extradited Monday from Arizona to San Diego County where the first of the alleged knife-point assaults occurred.

The break in the decades-old case came when the SDPD Sex Crimes Unit reached out to the FBI’s Forensic Genetic Genealogy Team for help identifying a nameless DNA sample.

SDPD has been trying to track down the man behind the sample since he committed his first alleged knife-point sex assault on August 18, 1995. In that case, and in three more knife-point attacks between then and Nov. 17, 1995, victims agreed to participate in sexual assault examinations that produced four DNA samples of the same suspect.

The suspect was unidentifiable immediately following the attacks, and SDPD was unable to find a match for its samples when it began participating in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) in 1999.

In March 2002, and again in November 2004, DNA samples were retrieved from two sexual assault victims in Riverside County, both of whom were attacked at knife point, that matched SDPD’s mystery sample from 1995.

Then in February 2019, SDPD’s Sex Crime Unit reached out to the FBI for help. The two agencies worked together and, with the help of public access genealogical databases, were able to identify a potential suspect.

Through their investigation, they identified direct family members of the suspect whose DNA was then compared to the samples developed from evidence at the scenes.

The investigation led SDPD to identify Christopher VanBuskirk, 46, as a suspect in the assaults. The District Attorney’s Office issued an arrest warrant for VanBuskirk, who at the time lived in Goodyear, Arizona. He was taken into custody on April 29 and was extradited to San Diego on Monday where he will be charged for the four cases from 1995.

VanBuskirk's arraignment is scheduled for Tuesday. He faces five felony counts, including rape, oral copulation, and sex with a foreign object with force.

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.

No other information was available.

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