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Riverside County (Opens in New Window)
Press Release: Sexual Assault Investigation / Coachella Valley
Agency: Palm Desert Station
Station Area: Palm Desert
Written Date: May 6, 2019 Time: 4 P.M.
Incident Date: March 2002 / November 2004 Time:  
Incident Location: Coachella Valley
Reporting Officer: Lieutenant Chris Durham
File Number(s): S02065022 / T04322099

Details:

The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department would like to notify the public of a sexual assault investigation led by the San Diego Police Department. This investigation involved allied law enforcement personnel from the San Diego Police Department, the FBI, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, and the Phoenix Police Department.

Recently, the San Diego Police Department discovered a DNA link through the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) connecting six violent sexual assaults. During these attacks the unknown suspect sexually assaulted his victims at knife point. Four of these assaults occurred in San Diego between August 18 and November 17, 1995. The two other sexual assaults occurred in March 2002 and November 2004 in the Coachella Valley. DNA evidence from these investigations revealed the same suspect committed these crimes, but his identity was unknown. 

In February 2019, the San Diego Police Department Sex Crimes Unit requested assistance from the FBI Forensic Genealogy Team. Using DNA from public genealogical databases, the investigation identified direct family members of the potential suspect when their DNA was compared to the DNA profile left by the suspect at these six sexual assault locations.

In April 2019, the San Diego Police Department identified 46-year-old Christopher VanBuskirk as the suspect responsible for these sexual assaults and were able to obtain a warrant for his arrest for the sexual assaults that occurred in San Diego.  On April 29, 2019, detectives assigned to the San Diego Police Department’s Sex Crimes Unit, as well as investigators from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, coordinated with the Phoenix Police Department and the FBI to arrest VanBuskirk at his home in Goodyear, Arizona. VanBuskirk was booked into the Maricopa County Jail and extradited to San Diego on May 6, 2019, where he faces charges from the 1995 cases.

Investigators from the Palm Desert Station will coordinate with the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office for charges against VanBuskirk for the sexual assaults that occurred in Riverside County March 2002 and November 2004.

The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department believes VanBuskirk resided in the Coachella Valley between late 2001 to 2005. We are asking anyone with information related to these investigations to call our dedicated hotline at 760-836-1660, or email at PDinvestigations@riversidesheriff.org.

Citizens may also submit a tip using the Sheriff's CrimeTips online form.

 

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