DNA from a discarded plastic Baskin-Robbins ice cream spoon led to the recent arrest of a Livermore man for allegedly sexually assaulting two women more than 22 years ago, according to court documents made public on Monday.
Gregory Paul Vien, 60, was arraigned in court on Nov. 7 on charges of sexual assault and a slew of special allegations in connection with incidents that took place in Livermore and Union City in 1997, according to Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley.
Vien, a maintenance worker who's being held without bail, is scheduled to return to Alameda County Superior Court in Dublin on Wednesday to enter a plea.
He has been charged with three counts of sexual penetration by a foreign object and two counts of forcible oral copulation, as well as 23 special allegations including committing a sex offense on a kidnapped victim, in connection with the sexual assaults of a 41-year-old woman in Union City on May 6, 1997, and a 22-year-old woman in Livermore on Sept. 15, 1997.
DNA samples were collected and analyzed in a timely manner from both crimes at the time, O'Malley said in announcing the charges Monday. Investigators were able to determine both crimes were committed by the same assailant, but they were unable to find a match to the perpetrator in known law enforcement data bases.
Then earlier this year, Livermore police detectives developed new leads through a genetic genealogical search in their quest to solve the cold-case assaults. That information allowed them to focus their investigation on Vien, obtain a sample of his DNA and identify him as the assailant, according to O'Malley.
"For over 20 years, the survivors of these sexual assaults have lived with the constant uncertainty that comes with not knowing when, if ever, their assailant will be identified and brought to justice," O'Malley said in a statement.
"The police agencies never gave up, nor let these investigations go cold," the DA added. "Their dedication, tenacity and excellent investigative work, has now paid off in the arrest of Mr. Vien. My office's specialized cold case unit and sexual assault unit worked alongside our law enforcement partners and will now ensure that Mr. Vien is held to account for the crimes he committed."
Prosecutors allege that Vien was the man who attacked a 41-year-old woman in Union City on May 6, 1997 as she walked to BART after work and dragged her to a secluded area, where he sexually assaulted her. At the time, the culprit was identifiable only as a white man in his 30s.
Then just over four months later, on Sept. 15, 1997, prosecutors allege Vien attacked a 22-year-old woman while she was on a walk near Livermore High School and sexually assaulted her.
O'Malley said DNA samples obtained from both crimes were uploaded to the national law enforcement DNA database at the time but no "hit" was made to determine the identity of the assailant.
Union City police Det. Joshua Clubb wrote in a probable cause statement that authorities finally got a break in June when the Livermore police forensics team sent the DNA sample to a private lab and a genetic genealogy search was conducted of the private database. Preliminary results allegedly identified a possible relative of the 1997 assailant.
Livermore police soon identified Vien as their target suspect and began watching the man. The case turned when Livermore officers who were conducting extensive surveillance on Vien surreptitiously collected a Baskin-Robbins spoon that he had discarded and sent it to a DNA lab for forensic analysis, according to Clubb.
Clubb said on Aug. 28 the lab determined that the swab from the spoon matched semen strains and sperm in the Union City rape case.
O'Malley said DNA evidence that was collected when Vien was arrested at his home in the 100 block of Cameo Drive in Livermore on Nov. 5 also connected him to both sexual assaults.
Clubb wrote that when police recently interviewed the Union City victim she said "she was afraid her attacker was going to kill her at the time."
Livermore police said there are three additional unsolved brutal sexual assaults that occurred in Livermore between 1995 and 1997, which have similar characteristics to those in the incidents for which Vien has been charged.
They said Vien is a long-time Livermore resident who also frequented Union City, Fremont, Hayward, San Lorenzo and San Ramon in the mid to late 1990s.
Livermore police said anyone who has information about the unsolved cases should contact Sgt. Steve Goard at (925) 580-9585 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Union City police said people with information also can contact Clubb at (510) 675-5227 or email@example.com.