Decades-old cold case in Missouri leads investigators to suspect in Mooresville

“Mr. Wilson won’t victimize anyone else anymore,” the Missouri police chief said.
It was someone working on a family tree for a client that first alerted police they might have a match.
Published: Oct. 28, 2022 at 6:03 PM EDT
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MOORESVILLE, N.C. (WBTV) - A Mooresville man is in jail tonight after he was arrested in a decades-old cold case that originated in Missouri.

James Wilson is accused of a brutal sexual assault and attempted murder back in 1984.

“We don’t know yet how expansive his reign of terror was,” the Columbia, Mo. police chief said yesterday. “Mr. Wilson won’t victimize anyone else anymore.”

Officials in Missouri laid out their case in a press conference detailing the arrest of Wilson, and explained why they believe he’s the primary suspect in a 38-year-old cold case.

While the case began nearly four decades ago, the technology wasn’t available at the time to solve it.

“There were some advancements in forensic science that weren’t available back then,” Missouri officials said.

According to the Mooresville Police Department, the victim was abducted at knifepoint and driven to a dead-end road. That’s where the assault happened. The suspect then vanished, and police feared it may have given him time to commit further crimes.

“We do know that people who commit these types of crimes, often don’t stop at one,” the Columbia police chief said.

After years of waiting for a break in the case, Columbia police reopened the investigation. That’s when they learned a forensic genealogist made a match while compiling a family tree for a client in Washington.

“Used information from that to match a DNA sample recently collected to identify this suspect,” Megan Suber, with the Town of Mooresville, said.

The suspect was found to have been living in the Mooresville area. It took three months to get enough to obtain a search warrant, but today Wilson was arrested and placed under a $1 million bond.

Now detectives have a DNA footprint, and will be able to backtrack over the past 40 years to see if there may be more victims out there.

“The suspect’s DNA will be logged into CODUS so, if there are any other incidences not only here not only in Missouri but anywhere across the nation, that can be matched to this individual’s DNA, we will now be able to match and link that to those cases,” Suber said.

The plan is to extradite Wilson back to Columbia, but it is not yet known when that will happen.

The family of Wilson released the following statement to WBTV:

“Our thoughts go out to the victim and her family that this has affected. We, his family, are devastated to learn of this tragic event. We had no prior knowledge of his actions until his arrest. We do not condone the actions that occurred against the victim. We ask the community of Mooresville to respect our privacy during this devastating time.

While the Mooresville Police Department completed its investigation and findings regarding this case, we, the family, completely cooperated with them. However, we feel that we are fully targeted by the Mooresville Police Department with the publication of our entire residence. Please respect our wishes and privacy at this difficult time. The victim and her family are currently in our hearts and prayers. Nobody ought to fall victim to such horrific actions.”

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