File photo

DNA from clothing key to cold case rape trial

James Allen Redden accused of assaulting woman at Abbotsford concert in 1991

Prosecutors hope to prove that DNA from clothing left at the scene of an alleged 1999 rape matches that of James Allen Redden, whose sexual assault trial began Monday in Chilliwack.

Redden is accused of sexual assault, forcible confinement and uttering threats in connection with an attack on a woman during a 1999 concert on Sumas Mountain.

The case was revisited in 2013 after the officer who had first investigated the incident re-opened the file and connected DNA obtained from clothing at the scene to that of Redden, 50.

Crown counsel Louise Kenworthy laid out the broad strokes of her case Monday, and said she expects the victim to testify that she had been attending a concert off of Sumas Mountain Road when she went to her car in the late evening to grab cigarettes. While the woman was at her vehicle, a man grabbed her, dragged her into the nearby woods and sexually assaulted her.

The attacker choked his victim to the point where she nearly lost consciousness. After that, the victim – afraid for her life – became more compliant in an attempt to escape the scene alive. The man’s demeanour changed after that, the victim is expected to testify.

The scene of the attack was so dark that both the attacker and victim were unable to retrieve some pieces of discarded clothing, and the woman couldn’t find her pants or underwear. The man helped his victim return to her car, where she retrieved a second pair of pants.

After attempting to reunite with her companion at the concert, the woman headed down the hill in her vehicle, where she encountered a police roadblock and reported what had happened.

Abbotsford Police Const. Tony Demers – now a detective with the force – was called to the roadblock, met the victim, and attempted to find the scene of the attack. Demers, who was the second witness called by Kenworthy, testified Monday that returning to the scene of the crime wasn’t ideal. But with the concert over and hundreds of people leaving the scene, he felt it was the best chance police had of locating the area where the attack took place.

After a short walk, the woman was able to find where she had parked. Demers said he shone his flashlight into the nearby woods and quickly spotted the woman’s purse. Its contents had been dumped on the ground. Leaving the victim with another officer, Demers ventured further into the bush and within a few steps located other pieces of clothing.

Some of that was the victim’s own. But a hat and two shirts were also found at the scene. In particular, Demers described a long-sleeve shirt he found as an “odd garment” that reminded him of tie-dye ’70s-era clothing. In her opening, Kenworthy said she will call witnesses attesting to the shirt’s origin at a business on Vancouver Island, where Redden once lived with his family.

The clothing collected by Demers at the scene of the crime didn’t immediately result in an arrest. But in 2013, Demers – since promoted to detective and tasked with solving major crimes – re-opened the investigation. Redden, Kenworthy said, had become a suspect, and she said witnesses will tell the story of how police obtained a DNA sample, then matched it to DNA obtained from clothing from the scene.

Kenworthy noted that the victim had failed to identify Redden in a photo lineup conducted once the investigation had become re-started. But she said witnesses will testify that the photo of Redden used in the lineup was from 2001, and that between the time of the attack and the time of the photo being taken, his full head of hair had disappeared.

The defence has not yet put forward its case. The trial, which is expected to take a week to complete, continues.

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