2021 News Release

September 17, 2021

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State Police and Brigantine Police Solve 25-Year-Old Cold Case

Detectives Use DNA Evidence to Arrest Suspect for Sexual Assault of 10-year-old Girl

Brigantine, N.J. - The New Jersey State Police and Brigantine Police Department have charged Brian Lee Avis, 59, of Egg Harbor City, N.J., for the sexual assault of a 10-year-old girl during a 1996 home invasion, after detectives used DNA evidence to solve the 25-year-old cold case.

On July 19, 1996, the Brigantine Police Department responded to the report of a sexual assault at a residence on East Evans Boulevard in Brigantine City, Atlantic County. A male suspect allegedly broke into the residence in the middle of the night and sexually assaulted a 10-year-old girl while she was sleeping. When the victim woke up, the suspect fled the scene.

Detectives collected evidence at the scene and obtained a DNA sample of the suspect from the victim’s bed. The suspect's DNA profile had been generated in 2002 and was uploaded into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), which is a national DNA collection database, however there were no CODIS matches for the profile.

During the summers of 1995 and 1996, there were approximately 14 reported incidents of an individual engaging in voyeuristic behavior and attempted sexual assaults of two sleeping teenage girls in the Brigantine area. The incidents created widespread panic and concern in the community which led to an increased presence by the Brigantine Police Department. Investigators determined that the suspect lived in the vicinity, but he was never identified and the cases remained unsolved.

In January of 2021, detectives from the New Jersey State Police Cold Case Unit and Brigantine Police Department reopened the case in a cooperative investigation. Detectives began working with the New Jersey State Police Office of Forensic Sciences (OFS) and a private company specializing in Investigative Genetic Genealogy (IGG).  The evidence was resubmitted to OFS and a more robust DNA sample for the suspect was obtained.

On July 26, 2021, detectives submitted the DNA to a private laboratory for analysis.  The laboratory conducted Microarray Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNP) testing for IGG analysis in an attempt to identify genetic relatives of the suspect based on the DNA sample obtained at the scene. Through various investigative means, detectives identified Brian Lee Avis as the suspect.

On September 12, detectives located Avis and escorted him to the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office, where they executed a search warrant for his DNA. Detectives obtained the sample by using a buccal swab, which collects DNA from cells inside of a person’s cheek. The sample was submitted for forensic analysis, which revealed a positive match to the DNA obtained at the scene.

On September 13, detectives arrested Avis and charged him with aggravated sexual assault of a child under 13 years old, sexual assault of a child under 13 years old, burglary, and endangering the welfare of child. He was lodged at the Atlantic County Jail.

“No matter how long ago a crime occurred, we are committed to ensuring those who break the law are held accountable,” said Acting Attorney General Andrew J. Bruck. “I want to recognize the outstanding job by all law enforcement officers involved in the review and reinvestigation of this case.  Their persistence in the search for justice reflects the very best of our law enforcement profession.”

“The sanctity and security of a 10-year-old girl’s bedroom was violated by a heinous act committed 25 years ago, violently stripping her of her innocence resulting in emotional scars that are as fresh today as they were that fateful summer night in 1996,” said Colonel Patrick J. Callahan, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “I commend our Cold Case Unit detectives and members of the Brigantine Police Department for reopening this case and working collaboratively by using modern technology to bring justice and closure for the victim.”

"First I want to thank the original Brigantine Police detectives who did a great job collecting and preserving the evidence 25 years ago. That evidence was preserved for 25 years and was able to still be used after all this time. It is a testament to their diligent detective work and the evidence custodians over the years who maintained and preserved the evidence for 25 years,” said Chief Rich Casamento, Brigantine Police Department. “Several months ago, Detective Sergeant Glasser of the Brigantine Police identified this evidence as a case that could be solved using current DNA technology. He advised the New Jersey State Police Cold Case Unit of his findings and re-opened the case. This case being solved is the result of the excellent investigative efforts of Detective Sergeant Glasser, the New Jersey State Police Cold Case Unit, and the original detectives 25 years ago. It is an example of the relentless pursuit of justice and all of them should be commended. I want to thank Colonel Callahan and the New Jersey State Police Cold Case Unit for their partnership and teamwork that led to solving this case. I hope closing this case brings some peace and healing to the victim and her family."

“Our law enforcement partnerships and the dogged work since 1996, that has been completed by detectives at the Brigantine Police Department, and the New Jersey State Police Cold Case Unit has resulted in the arrest of Brian Lee Avis for the sexual assault of a 10-year-old girl in her bedroom 25 years ago,” said Cary Shill, Acting Atlantic County Prosecutor. “I commend our law enforcement officers who worked together, staying committed to this case and 25 years later forensic science and their commitment to justice have resulted in these charges and the arrest of 59-year-old Brian Lee Avis.”

Anyone with additional information is asked to contact Detective Sergeant John Glasser of the Brigantine Police Department at (609)266-7600 ext. 276 or Detective Sergeant First Class Joseph Itri of the New Jersey State Police Cold Case Unit at (833) 4NJ-COLD. Anonymous tips are welcome.

Charges are mere accusations, and the accused is considered innocent until proven guilty.

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