Arlington Police Make Arrest in Series of 1991 Rapes

DNA evidence led to a suspect in a series of nearly 30-year-old cold cases

Arlington Police arrested a 63-year-old man in Virginia’s Northern Neck Tuesday, accusing him of raping or attempting to rape four women near the East Falls Church Metro station in 1991. Michael F. Thomson was arrested without incident, the police say.

The assaults followed a similar pattern: Between January and December, the assailant used a firearm to try to force victims to a quiet residential area. In December, he dropped a baseball cap while fleeing the scene of one assault. DNA found on the hat matched genetic material found in two earlier incidents, but police were unable to use it to make an arrest at the time.

The police’s cold-case unit took up the cases anew in 2017 and, a police spokesperson tells Washingtonian, used “Both phenotyping and genetic genealogy analysis” to help develop a lead, in addition to reviewing crime-scene evidence and case files.

DNA databases have contributed arrests in dozens of cold cases over the past few years, notably the so-called “Golden State Killer.” Lawmakers have since scrambled to codify how cops can use consumer databases to help solve old cases.

Senior editor

Andrew Beaujon joined Washingtonian in late 2014. He was previously with the Poynter Institute, TBD.com, and Washington City Paper. His book A Bigger Field Awaits Us: The Scottish Soccer Team That Fought the Great War was published in 2018. He lives in Del Ray.