A homeless Seattle man who was tricked into giving a DNA sample was arrested on Monday in connection with one of Maine's oldest cold-case slayings.

Share story

A homeless man who was lured into giving a DNA sample by a Seattle detective’s unusual ruse has been arrested in connection with one of Maine’s oldest cold-case slayings.

Gary Sanford Raub, an original suspect in the 1976 slaying of Blanche M. Kimball in Augusta, Maine, was unwittingly tricked into providing a DNA sample by the undercover Seattle detective, according to court documents cited by a Maine newspaper.

The detective obtained the sample by asking Raub, 63, who now lives in Seattle, to participate in a “chewing gum survey,” the Kennebec Journal reported. Exactly what the phony survey entailed wasn’t immediately known.

Raub, who King County prosecutors said has a lengthy criminal history going back to age 16, is being held as a fugitive from justice in King County Jail in lieu of $1.5 million bail.

He is expected to be extradited to Maine, where he will face murder charges, according to Maine State Police spokesman Steve McCausland.

“This case has been worked over for over three decades,” he said. “The DNA was significant in bringing the case to this point.”

Seattle police spokesman Sgt. Sean Whitcomb would not discuss in detail the role of Seattle police in the arrest, but the ruse used to obtain Raub’s DNA is strikingly similar to one used by local cold-case detectives to solve the 20-year-old slaying of a 13-year-old Seattle girl. John Nicholas Athan, a New Jersey contractor, was arrested in 2003 for the 1982 slaying of his young neighbor, Kristin Sumstad, after police obtained his saliva from an envelope he was tricked into sending to a detective.

Athan, who was 14 when the body of Sumstad was discovered in Magnolia, had long been considered a suspect, but police lacked the evidence to build a case, court records show.

Two decades later, cold-case detectives sent Athan a letter from a mock law firm inviting him to participate in a class-action lawsuit about parking tickets.

Athan replied, licking the return envelope in the process and providing police with a DNA sample that was matched to DNA found on the victim.

His lawyer appealed the case to the state Supreme Court, claiming the DNA was obtained illegally. But the Supreme Court upheld Athan’s 2007 conviction for first-degree murder, determining that police did not violate his constitutional rights by using a ruse to obtain his DNA.

Legal experts said police have long used tricks and ruses to obtain information from unwitting suspects.

John Strait, a professor of law at Seattle University, said after Athan’s arrest that courts have traditionally ruled that DNA samples and other evidence collected in public places are not protected by the Fourth Amendment prohibition on warrantless searches and seizures.

Athan was convicted of the slaying in 2004 and served seven years in prison.

Raub, who changed his name from Gary Wilson, was an early suspect in the slaying of 70-year-old Blanche Kimball, according to Augusta police.

He had rented a room from Kimball, the Kennebec Journal reported.

Police in Augusta began re-examining Raub after he was accused in an October 2011 stabbing in Seattle that injured another homeless man.

Blood collected from Kimball’s kitchen was tested for DNA earlier this year and was found to be from a man, the Journal reported Wednesday.

“It appeared that the person who had stabbed Blanche Kimball may have sustained injuries that caused him or her to bleed, leaving possible suspect blood on various items in the living room and kitchen,” Maine State Police Detective Abbe Chabot wrote in an affidavit obtained by the Maine newspaper.

Investigators then collected a DNA sample from the knife used in the Seattle attack. The analysis showed partial profiles were linked to Raub and to the blood found in Kimball’s home.

A DNA analyst told Chabot that “the estimated probability of selecting an unrelated individual at random from the FBI caucasian population data base is 1 in 339 million,” the Journal reported.

After Raub participated in the chewing gum survey, tests showed DNA from the gum was consistent with samples found in Kimball’s kitchen and on the knife handle from the Seattle stabbing, according to the Journal. Other DNA samples collected in the home matched samples connected to Raub and an unidentified woman, whom police believed to be Kimball, the newspaper reported.

Raub was featured in a December 2010, story in The Stranger newspaper in which he discussed his friendship with John T. Williams, who was fatally shot by a police officer four months earlier. Raub told The Stranger that he was Vietnam War veteran.

Whitcomb, the Seattle police spokesman, said Raub was arrested Monday by a contingent of officers from Seattle, Augusta and the Maine State Police at one of his usual hangouts, Northeast 45th Street and University Way Northeast.

“We lean on other agencies often in bringing our cold-case fugitives to justice,” Whitcomb said. “So, it means a lot to us to be able to help Maine and Augusta get him where h belongs, which is behind bars in the state of Maine.”

Christine Clarridge: 206-464-8983 or cclarridge@seattletimes.com

Information from Seattle Times staff reporter Sara Jean Green and news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report, which includes information from Times archives.