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Some Dana Bradley murder suspects cleared with new DNA


Police have used new DNA evidence in the Dana Bradley murder investigation to clear suspects in the case, including a man who was publicly accused by someone claiming to have witnessed the murder.

RCMP Insp. Pat Cahill, head of the force's Major Crimes Unit in Newfoundland and Labrador, speaks to The Telegram about new DNA evidence acquired in the Dana Bradley murder case Thursday afternoon.

Dana, 14, was reported missing from the west end of St. John's Dec. 14, 1981, having last been seen hitchhiking on Topsail Road. Her body was found in a wooded area off Maddox Cove Road four days later. She had been killed by a blow to the head.

Evidence had been collected from the scene by police investigators, but because of the limited technology at the time, no DNA was able to be positively extracted from that evidence until now.

Though testing had been ongoing over the past 35 years, it wasn't until the evidence was recently sent to a

lab in the United States for additional investigation that police got a positive hit for male DNA.

"It's a significant breakthrough," RCMP Insp. Pat Cahill, who is in charge of the force's Major Crime Unit in Newfoundland and Labrador, told The Telegram in an interview at police headquarters Thursday. "In any investigation, when you're doing these files, that's what you want — you want DNA evidence."

Further testing on the evidence is ongoing. Investigators are comparing the DNA to their known suspects, and have used it to clear a number of people so far. One of them is a man publicly accused in recent years of the murder.

In a series of stories published by The Telegram starting in 2014, a local man  said he had witnessed the murder as a child, that he had been in the backseat of a car driven by a friend of his family, he said, when the family friend picked Dana up hitchhiking and then killed her. The RCMP followed up on the information for a year and a half before dismissing it. Cahill said Thursday the accused family friend has been cleared again with the new DNA evidence.

"What I can say is that the tips and the information surrounding this individual have been cleared, and most recently we have used this DNA evidence to clear him," Cahill said.

Dana’s mother and stepfather, Dawn and Jeff Levitz, say they are pleased that scientific development has allowed for the new evidence.

“We can only hope that with the help of further tips from the public, they will finally be able to solve the case,” Jeff said.

Police are still receiving tips from members of the public on the murder case. A number of them came in late Thursday morning, as news of the new evidence broke.

"I had one call this morning from a person who said, 'I thought this might be insignificant.' I said, 'It's not insignificant,’" Cahill said. "We don't want to discourage anyone from providing information. We want to encourage the public now to come forward with new tips."

Officers will follow up on every tip, Cahill said. 

Police are asking anyone with any information about the death of Dana Bradley to contact them at 772-5400. To remain anonymous, tips can be given through Crime Stoppers by calling Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS, by texting TIP190 and the information to "CRIMES" (274637), or online at www.nlcrimestoppers.com .                                                  

 

tbradbury@thetelegram

Twitter: @tara_bradbury

 

To read more on the Dana Bradley murder case, click here.

 

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