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DNA leads to arrest in 1996 sex assault of Brigantine girl

An Egg Harbor City man is in jail 25 years after he allegedly sexually assaulted a 10-year-old girl while she slept.
Brian Lee Avis, 59, is charged with aggravated sexual assault, criminal sexual contact, endangering the welfare of a child and burglary.
Avis allegedly broke into the girl’s Brigantine home July 19, 1996, and sexually assaulted her.
The young girl woke up during the assault, and the suspect fled.
Her mother, who was asleep on the couch, told police she woke up to see someone running through her house from her daughter’s room, through the kitchen and into the side room.
DNA evidence was left behind, but no arrests were ever made.
It was one of more than a dozen reports in the town over the summers of 1995 and 1996, including attempted sexual assaults of two teenage girls, and several other reports of voyeuristic behavior.
The incidents created widespread panic, leading to an increased police presence at the time, State Police wrote in a news release.
Then, this past January, Brigantine Detective Sgt. Jack Glasser identified this as a case that could be solved with current DNA technology, Police Chief Rich Casamento said.
“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,” Casamento said. “It is an example of the relentless pursuit of justice and all of them should be commended.”
He thanked the State Police for their help.
“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 Col. 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.”
Just days after the 25th anniversary of the attack, detectives submitted the DNA to a private laboratory for analysis.
The laboratory conducted Microarray Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms testing for IGG analysis in an attempt to identify genetic relatives.
The investigation led to Avis, who was brought to the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office Sunday, on a warrant for his DNA.
The test was a positive match, and Avis was arrested the next day.
He is now in the Atlantic County Justice Facility awaiting a detention hearing.
Police would not comment on whether the investigation continues to see if Avis may be connected to the other incidents at that time.
“No matter how long ago a crime occurred, we are committed to ensuring those who break the law are held accountable,” acting Attorney General Andrew 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.”
Brigantine’s police chief also thanked the original detectives who worked the case and preserved the evidence that was still able to be used 25 years later.
“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,” Rich Casamento said. “I hope closing this case brings some peace and healing to the victim and her family.”
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 Sgt. First Class Joseph Itri of the New Jersey State Police Cold Case Unit at (833) 4NJ-COLD. Anonymous tips are welcome.

NOTE: The Atlantic County Justice Facility no longer provides mugshots to the media, citing the Atlantic County prosecutor’s order. The Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office says it’s part of the Attorney General’s Guidelines. There is no such guideline, according to the Attorney General’s Office, but they have recommended that these offices not release any photos that appear to be mugshots.

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