Danville police: DNA links suspect to smash and grab crime spree

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DANVILLE, Ind. – Danville Police credit DNA for connecting a suspect to a smash and grab crime spree.

Back in October, a husband and wife were out walking near Twin Bridges Trails. When the couple returned to their car, they found the car window busted and the woman’s purse was gone.

“It’s not like we forget about the case. We are still going to come after you,” said Nate Lien, detective with Danville Police Department.  

Now months later, Danville Police believe Donald Cates is the man behind the crime.

“We know in our case it’s solid,” said Detective Lien.

Lien tells CBS4 that when Cates busted the car window, he cut himself, leaving behind his DNA. Investigators waited for the lab results to come back and got a match.

“There’s no fighting that your blood is on their broken window and their stuff is stolen there. So, it’s one of the pieces to the puzzle that is vital to solving this case,” said Detective Lien.

Police are confident the smash and grab that happened in the Danville parking lot wasn’t the first for Cates. So far, he’s under investigation for possibly doing the same thing at other trails in several surrounding counties. The DNR is looking into him too.

“He was specifically targeting trailheads and parks, where cars are left unattended and people are out walking and away from their cars,” said Detective Lien.

Detective Lien says investigators from Hamilton County, Pendleton, and New Castle have all been working together and comparing surveillance pictures from when the suspect used stolen credit cards from vehicles.

“This was the suspect in every one of the cases. Basically, we’ve caught him at once,” said Detective Lien.

Detectives are warning criminals, no matter how much time goes by cases remain open and clues, even the ones they unknowingly left behind are helping investigators close in on them.

“There’s DNA on everything. There’s DNA in saliva, hair, people dropping cigarettes. We use DNA all the time it might take a awhile but eventually you’re going to get caught,” said Detectives Lien.

Cates has been charged with theft, felony theft due to prior convictions, fraud, criminal mischief among other charges.  

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