Army vet charged in cold case after 1 in 270 quadrillion DNA match

by Vern Evans

A rape and murder that took place in Ludwigsburg, Germany, in 1978 went unsolved for 45 years, but a near-impossible DNA match found in 2021 has connected a former U.S. soldier to the killing.

James Patrick Dempsey, 66, who served with the Army in Germany in 1977 and 1978 before being discharged that same year, is now being extradited from his home in Oneida, New York, in connection with the murder of a woman named Bärbel Gansau.

He was arrested after the FBI, working with German authorities, went through Dempsey’s trash and found DNA that matched evidence found at the crime scene.

“Investigators determined that the likelihood of a match was 1 in 270 quadrillion,” according to the extradition document.

New technology led investigators to reopen the cold case. A fingerprint left behind on Gansau’s window was found to be a match for a man in an American database, leading the FBI to Dempsey, who was put in the system after a domestic drunk driving incident in 1979.

Gansau, age 35 when she died, was found on June 11, 1978, in her apartment. She was stabbed 37 times. Semen found on Gansau’s body as well on her bedsheets matched the DNA found in Dempsey’s trash, leading to his arrest.

“The German investigators used DNA trace analysis on several skin and sperm samples obtained at the crime scene,” the document reads. “In 2022, German police investigators compared this DNA from the crime scene to the male DNA found in the trash pull from Dempsey’s U.S. residence.”

According to Army records cited in the extradition document, Dempsey had an alcohol problem while serving and had left rehab shortly before Gansau’s murder.

She reportedly often visited American officers’ clubs in the area and was friendly with some of the soldiers. The extradition sheet, however, notes there is no proof that Gansau and Dempsey engaged in any consensual activities leading up to her death.

Army public affairs did not respond to a request for comment by publication.

Syracuse.com reported that Dempsey has been detained at the Broome County Jail while he awaits extradition to Germany.

According to the Daily Beast, German authorities said they would charge Dempsey as a young adult — his age at the time of the alleged crime — despite Dempsey now being in his mid-60s.

Sarah Sicard is a Senior Editor with Military Times. She previously served as the Digitial Editor of Military Times and the Army Times Editor. Other work can be found at National Defense Magazine, Task & Purpose, and Defense News.

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