September 26, 2011

Police Crack Ithaca Cold Case

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Thirty-four years after Ruth VanHouten was smothered to death in her bed at 412 West Seneca St., the New York State Police Forensic Investigation Center has discovered DNA evidence implicating David Grimes, 64, in the crime, Edward Vallely, Chief of the Ithaca Police Department, announced Monday. Police said there would be no criminal charges against Grimes — who is currently serving a 50-year to life sentence for burglary, assault, robbery and attempted robbery — because the victim’s family did not “wish to relive the events of this tragic and horrific death,” an IPD press release stated. According to the press release, Grimes will not be eligible for parole until 2040, when he will be age 93.Evidence from the crime scene was collected in the early hours of Sept. 16, 1977, the press release stated, and was sent to the New York State Police for “scientific testing.” The testing did not provide enough information to identify a suspect, although Grimes was located and questioned during the investigation, according to the Associ­ated Press.In January 2010, after the VanHouten case had long since gone cold, Vallely asked Lt. Christopher Townsend, from the Ithaca Police Department Investigations Division, to complete a case review of the VanHouten homicide, the press release stated. At that point, the evidence from the victim’s clothes, along with a case outline, was presented to the NYSP Forensic Investigation Center in Albany, for DNA testing — a technology that was not available in 1977. The DNA results from the clothing implicated Grimes in the murder, the Associated Press reported Monday. “It was a case that had been pursued with everything police had at the time,” Vallely told the A.P. Grimes was arrested several times for residential burglaries in and around Ithaca involving physical assaults of elderly women who lived alone. Seven months before the VanHouten murder, he had been released on parole after serving a sentence for severely beating an elderly woman who ended up in the hospital for three weeks, the A.P. reported. Grimes was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison for beating a retired couple in their home in 1978 but was freed in 1988, according to the A.P. Three years later, he was arrested again and pleaded guilty to burglary, assault, robbery and attempted robbery. He acknowledged beating and sexually assaulting two women in their homes, attacking two others and stealing from a fifth. ­­­

Original Author: Liz Camuti