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Ex-Army soldier held for extradition to Germany after DNA links him to 1978 murder

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An Oneida, New York man has been taken into custody to be extradited to Germany for the rape and murder of a woman nearly 45 years ago, after advancements in DNA forensics linked him to the crime in a 1-in-270 quadrillion match, according to court documents.

In a document filed on Feb. 13, 2024 with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York, Assistant U.S. Steven C. Green requested James Patrick Dempsey, 66, of Oneida be detained until the conclusion of the extradition process, as he faces prosecution for aggravated murder in Germany.

Court documents show that between June 8, 1978 and June 11, 1978, 35-year-old Bärbel Gansau was murdered inside her apartment in Ludwigsburg, Germany.

During the investigation into Gansau’s death, detectives learned she would leave her bathroom window open so her cats could come and go freely. The window was about 39 inches from the ground and was visible from a nearby sidewalk.

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DNA study

James Patrick Dempsey, 66, of New York was linked to a woman’s 1978 murder in Germany due to DNA technology, according to court documents. (iStock)

While she was sleeping, she was attacked and stabbed with a knife 37 times, sustaining injuries to her neck, left arm, right thumb, left leg and right upper thigh. The intruder also stabbed Gansau in the center of her chest, which investigators determined was the main cause of death. Investigators also determined the victim’s wounds showed Gansau was not expecting the attack and could not defend herself against the perpetrator.

Investigators were able to collect a fingerprint from the bathroom window frame, suggesting someone gained access to Gansau’s apartment through the window. In total, three unique fingerprints were found in the victim’s apartment, which included the one on the window frame. 

Another piece of evidence taken from the scene was blood and discharge found on the bedsheet between Gansau’s legs.

A close friend of Gansau’s was interviewed during the investigation, court documents say, and she claimed the victim was attracted to American men and was known to frequent non-commissioned officers’ clubs for soldiers stationed at a U.S. Army base in Ludwigsburg.

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Police handcuffs

U.S. Marshals took a man into custody accused of raping, killing a woman in Germany in 1978.  (iStock)

Despite identifying several soldiers Gansau had been intimate with, investigators were unable to identify a suspect at the time, adding there was no evidence Dempsey and the victim had prior sexual contact.

The case was reopened in 2020 because of changes in DNA forensics, and investigators sent the fingerprint to an FBI liaison officer in Berlin for analysis on suspicion that the murderer was an American soldier.

On Jan. 29, 2021, the FBI told German investigators the fingerprints matched Dempsey’s fingerprints, which were in a U.S. database.

Dempsey was a soldier in the U.S. Army between November 1976 and December 1978, court documents show, and he was stationed in Ludwigsburg from 1977 to late 1978.

Army records noted in the court document say that Dempsey developed a drinking problem while in the Army and would become aggressive while under the influence of alcohol. As a result, he was sent to rehab for six days in June 1978.

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After being discharged from the Army in 1978, court documents say, Dempsey continued to have problems with alcohol, including a DUI charge in 1979.

The FBI conducted a trash pull at Dempsey’s house in the U.S. on April 14, 2021, to assist with the German investigation. The evidence obtained was provided to German investigators, who used DNA trace analysis on several skin and sperm samples obtained from the crime scene in 1978. One of the pieces of evidence focused on was semen found on the bedsheet between Gansau’s legs.

In 2022, the DNA from the crime scene was compared to DNA found during the trash pull from Dempsey’s house, and there was a match.

The likelihood of a match, according to investigators, was 1-in-270 quadrillion.

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On June 24, 2022, Judge Berger of the Stuttgart Lower Court in Germany issued a warrant for Dempsey’s arrest, then on Feb. 9, 2024, U.S. Magistrate Judge Miroslav Lovric issued an arrest warrant.

He was ultimately arrested on Feb. 13, 2024, and taken into custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.

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