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DNA technology links suspected serial rapist to 4 sexual assaults in northeast Dallas from 35 years ago

Investigators used the same advanced DNA testing that helped crack the decades-old Golden State Killer case.
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

A 74-year-old man was arrested in a cold case of a sexual assault from 1985 in Lake Highlands, the Dallas County District Attorney announced Wednesday.

David Thomas Hawkins was linked through DNA testing to the aggravated sexual assault of a Dallas woman in 1985, according to the DA's office. He was arrested Wednesday morning at his home in Keene, Dallas police said in a statement.

Investigators used the same advanced DNA testing that helped crack the decades-old Golden State Killer case.

Hawkins will be booked into the Dallas County jail on a charge of aggravated sexual assault. He has a prior conviction for rape, police said. More charges are expected in the coming weeks, police said.

Hawkins was also connected to three other aggravated assaults that occurred in Lake Highlands and Northeast Dallas from 1982 to 1985, police said.

In each case, the suspect would break into the victim's residence in the middle of the night, threaten the woman with a weapon and sexually assault her, police said.

In each of the four cases, the victims where white women from 23 to 35 years old.

Investigators reviewed the 1985 case with the help of experts in forensic genetic genealogy. Investigators did extensive DNA testing, genealogy research and surveillance, the office said. 

“This case was solved through the use of forensic genetic genealogy analysis and is the first of its kind to be solved in this manner in Dallas County,” District Attorney John Creuzot said in a statement.

DNA evidence links Hawkins to two other aggravated sexual assaults in Shreveport, La. between 1980 and 1985.

Prior rape arrest

Hawkins was arrested on a rape charge in May 1973 in Fort Smith, Ark. He pleaded no contest and was sentenced to 30 years in prison with nine years suspended. His DNA was never collected and entered in the FBI's Combined DNA Index System because it predated the requirement to do so, police said.

He was released on parole in 1977. He has lived in Fort Worth and the surrounding area since that time, according to officials. 

In 2005, the Dallas Police Department encouraged victims of sexual assaults that occurred in the 1970s and 1980s to come forward in the possibility of solving the cases.

As a result, the survivor of the 1985 case came forward and requested that her case be reopened.

Credit: Dallas Police Department
David Thomas Hawkins

DNA testing

There was no identifiable suspect until recently when his DNA was subjected to genealogical research and analysis.

Forensic testing was completed through the federal Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) grant. The grant funds prosecutors, investigators and victim advocates in a cold case unit in the DA's office. 

The grant "affords us the opportunity to investigate and vigorously prosecute cases that could not be solved decades ago. The use of forensic genetic genealogy is a game-changer for us,” said prosecutor Leighton D’Antoni in a written statement. 

The investigation was handled by the DA's office, the Dallas Police Department and the FBI office in Dallas. 

“This investigation highlights what can happen when the best in Dallas County law enforcement come together to solve the most difficult cold cases," D'Antoni said. 

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