COLUMBIA – Advanced DNA technology was used to identify suspects in a 1984 attempted rape and murder in Colombia, police say.
Columbia police announced Thursday at a community briefing that James Frederick Wilson, 59, has been listed as a potential suspect after years of investigation.
Wilson was arrested Wednesday at his home in Mooresville, North Carolina. A Boone County prosecutor charged him with forcible rape with a weapon and first-degree assault with a deadly weapon. He was living in Colombia at the time of the attack.
Wilson is being held at the Iredell County Jail in North Carolina on $1 million bail. He will be extradited to Colombia, but police have no timetable.
On Thursday afternoon, Colombian police held a briefing on a cold case from 1984.
The March 24, 1984 case took place in the 4000 block of Wellington Drive. Police took the victim to a hospital, where medics said there was evidence of sexual assault. Police said the suspect also attempted to slit the victim’s throat, which damaged her windpipe and vocal cords.
A team of Columbia police detectives visited the victim on Thursday morning, Sheriff Jeff Jones said at a briefing. She was aware of the arrest, and police said other details were withheld for her privacy.
“She’s a survivor. Thirty-eight years is a long time to carry the burden,” Chief Jones said.
Jones said the department wasn’t sure “how extensive Wilson’s reign of terror was.”
“People who commit these kinds of crimes usually don’t stop,” Jones said. “So we established a cue line.”
Jones said he did not accuse Wilson of any other crime but wanted to make sure the public knew the department was here to support them.
The Whistleblower Line can be reached at 573-874-7400 or by email at ColumbiaPoliceTipLine@CoMo.Gov.
The case was assigned to CPD Detective Renee Wilbarger in 2020. Jones said she was able to use an extensive DNA database and, with the help of partner agencies, identify Wilson as a suspect.
According to a probable cause statement, a 1981 yearbook photo of Wilson showed a “striking resemblance” to a composite sketch of the suspect. Police also said Wilson’s records at the 1985 traffic stop matched the description of the suspect’s vehicle.
According to the statement, DNA extracted from Wilson’s razor was a positive match to DNA from the victim.