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DNA leads to charges in 1981 sexual assaults reported at Foothills hospital campus

The Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary, Alta., is seen on Wednesday, April 1, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Calgary police are crediting significant advances in DNA science with helping cold case investigators lay charges in connection with two sexual assaults that happened nearly 40 years ago.

The first assault happened in the early hours of June 16, 1981. Police said the victim — a young, female nursing student — was attacked and raped by a stranger while returning to her residence in the Foothills Medical Centre.

The second assault happened a few weeks later, on the morning of July 1, 1981. Police said a young lab technician was returning to her vehicle from a building on the hospital campus when she was attacked and raped by a stranger.

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Police said 64-year-old Patrick Zamora was charged with one count of rape and one count of rape and choking, as the crimes were defined in the Criminal Code of Canada at the time. He was not known to police.

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“These offences were investigated extensively in 1981 by detectives in the Sex Crimes Unit with no offender identified in relation to the attacks,” Staff Sgt. Michelle Doyle said.

Doyle said police reviewed the cases because they were attacks by strangers, prompting public concern.

“The two cases potentially had some investigative links, and so when they were reopened and looked at again, the forensic evidence was examined and we were able to tie them both together,” she said.

“We have a number of cases that we do review over the years, just trying to get some resolution for the victims. So this was a case that carried some importance to the community and the victims. We always want to get resolution.”

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The victims are both still in Calgary and are aware of the charges, Doyle said.

“Obviously, this might have come as a surprise after the length of time that’s gone by. Forty years is a long time, so we did offer supports,” she said.

“I think, essentially, what the investigators have relayed to me is that there was some sense of relief but also feeling grateful that the police continued to look into the case to bring some resolution.”

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Doyle said she is proud of the cold case investigators and their tenacity.

“These cases highlight that dedicated investigative work coupled with technological advances can result in new information, leading to charges,” she said.

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Speaking to Global News Morning Calgary on Wednesday, Calgary police Chief Mark Neufeld called the assaults “heinous.”

“The great work that’s gone on – it has led to charges, albeit 40 years later,” he added. “We don’t forget about these things, and we will continue working on them.

“All it takes is one phone call or one change in technology…And we’re able to bring closure to people — and I think that’s really important.”

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Zamora is scheduled to appear in court on April 1.

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