After spending close to 50 years trying to solve a brutal murder in Germany, authorities believe they finally found their suspect: a 66-year-old Oneida County man.

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Who Killed Bärbel Gansau?

Larry W. Smith/Getty Images)
Larry W. Smith/Getty Images

German authorities say 35-year-old Bärbel Gansau was found stabbed to death in her ground-level apartment sometime between June 8 and June 11 in 1978. Upon investigation, it was determined she was stabbed a total of 37 times while she was asleep in her bed.

"The nature of the wounds reflected that Gansau did not expect the attack and was unable to mount a defense against it," the report read.

Police found the window in her bathroom had been left open and learned the victim didn't close it to let her cats come and go as they pleased. A dusting for prints yielded evidence, leading police to determine that's how the suspect managed to break in, ransack the place, and ultimately murder Gansau.

Police also found evidence that she had been raped, as she was found naked in her bed and her underwear cut off of her. Semen samples were later collected from her sheets and legs.

In the days following the murder, authorities learned Gansau took a liking to American soldiers that had been stationed overseas, and would frequent officers' clubs. She also developed relationships with some of the American soldiers. Those who knew Gansau were interviewed, but they all had an alibi.

Despite all the collected evidence, they were unable to find a match the DNA or fingerprint samples... until now.

Seeking the FBI's Help

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German authorities reopened the case in 2020 and reached out to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. They still believed that the fingerprints at the scene belonged to an American soldier.

They supplied the fingerprint taken at the scene 46 years ago, and the FBI tested it using modern fingerprinting and DNA matching technology.

The results turned up a positive match for James Patrick Dempsey, of Vernon Center. One document read, "Investigators determined that the likelihood of a match was 1 in 270 quadrillion."

The 66-year-old had been stationed in Ludwigsburg, Germany, as part of the 34th Battalion around the time of the murder. He also was not included in the original investigation, so authorities never ran his prints.

It was also found Dempsey was discharged from the Army in 1978, when he was 20-years-old, for allegedly developing aggressive behavior and a drinking problem. His alcohol issues followed him back to America and he was arrested in 1979 for driving under the influence.

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The charges of driving while intoxicated and unauthorized use of a vehicle were criminal in nature, so his fingerprints were taken.

After yielding a positive match for fingerprints, FBI investigators sought to test Dempsey's DNA and managed to collect a few samples after picking through his garbage in 2021. A year alter, German authorities confirmed the DNA taken matched the semen found on Gansau and her bedsheets.

Extradition to Germany

Prison Hands 2

Dempsey was arrested by the U.S. Marshals Service on February 13 and is currently awaiting extradition to Germany.

Until he is delivered to German authorities, he will remain held by the U.S. Marshals because he "cannot meet his burden to show that he poses no risk of flight, no danger to the community, and that special circumstances warrant his release."

Authorities believe that, if released, Dempsey will "flee further... to a third country or simply to hide at a location anywhere within the United States."

Police also believe he "poses a significant danger to the community" because he was charged with murder.

The extradition request from Germany describes a brutal killing of a defenseless woman, following a break-in. The evidence provided also points to a sexually depraved component of the crime. The materials from Germany indicate that Dempsey poses a great danger to the community and should not be released from custody.

It is unknown when he will be extradited. Because he is considered a fugitive, he legally has no Sixth Amendment rights that would have ensured a speedy extradition. He also isn't protected by the Fifth Amendment "against successive extradition proceedings."

WIBX has reached out to the DOJ for comment and will update the story.

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