A 49-year-old father of four who was unmasked by new DNA techniques tearfully apologized Wednesday for committing rape during a home invasion in 1991.
Thomas Craig Brodie, whose crimes were revealed only after Canadian authorities resorted to a method known as investigative genetic genealogy, told a sentencing hearing in provincial court in Calgary that he is no longer the man that he was 30 years ago.
“I ask your forgiveness for the terrible things I did,” Mr. Brodie said, addressing a victim who was watching proceedings via videolink.
Provincial Court Judge A.A. Fradsham reserved his decision on how long Mr. Brodie will spend in prison. Prosecutors are pushing for a penitentiary sentence of up to seven years, though the defence is urging a shorter term.
The court was presented with contrasting pictures drawn of a man 30 years apart. The defence emphasized how Mr. Brodie, who was supported by his wife and children, is a loving family man. But the prosecution said he must be condemned for what he did in 1991, when he was an intoxicated 18-year-old who donned a disguise, broke into a house and repeatedly raped a 28-year-old woman.
“I would give almost anything to be able to take back that night,” Mr. Brodie told the court. He said he had always struggled with how he had hidden his dark past. “Many times over the years, as I got older, I thought about going to police and confessing to them what I had done. But I was scared.”
The Globe and Mail reported last month that the case stumped police for decades, until two detectives in Calgary started using new DNA techniques. Investigative genetic genealogy methods are routine in the United States but have resulted in only a handful of convictions in Canada – most of them out of Calgary.
Through investigative genetic genealogy, police forces hire expert consultants who know how to access and interpret data drawn from customers of services that encourage people to submit their DNA to find out more about their family trees.
The technique can crack cases by giving new context for old blood and semen samples. By cross referencing traits seen in the police-gathered evidence with the genetic family trees, investigators can trace the lineage of killers and rapists who got away. They can then further fine-tune the DNA trail until it points to specific suspects.
The victim of the 1991 attack, whose name remains covered by a publication ban, immediately went to hospital to undergo a sexual assault forensic examination. Doctors recovered a semen sample that was stored by police, who periodically re-examined it as DNA technology improved.
When months of investigative genetic genealogy methods were applied to the case in 2020, the research eventually started to point strongly at Mr. Brodie to the point that police surveillance teams started shadowing him. When he spat on the ground, they recovered that sample.
That match between the saliva and the semen led detectives to confront Mr. Brodie in 2021. In an interview, they presented him with a court order authorizing them to also sample his blood. He immediately confessed and formally pleaded guilty to sexual assault late last year.
During his sentencing hearing on Wednesday, the court heard that the 49-year-old has recently quit a job he held for 20 years so that he can spend more time with his family before he is sent to a penitentiary.
The prosecution is urging a sentence in the seven-year range, emphasizing the violence of the act, while also conceding that the court should give some consideration to Mr. Brodie for his confessions.
“Anytime a victim can be saved from testifying, there’s value in the guilty plea,” Crown lawyer Pamela McCluskey said Wednesday.
But Ms. McCluskey also told Justice Fradsham that only a strong sentence could condemn the violent sexual assault.
“The callousness and calculation must be denounced,” she said. “And it must be denounced notwithstanding the 31 years Mr. Brodie has lived a solid and productive life in the meantime.”
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