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CALDWELL — When Daralyn Johnson left her Nampa home to walk to Lincoln Elementary School a few blocks away on Feb. 21, 1982, she never made it to her destination.

The 9-year-old didn’t resurface until three days later, according to court records. Her body, which had been sexually assaulted and beaten, was found in a shallow drainage ditch along the Snake River in Melba by a group of fishermen. Johnson sustained blunt force trauma to the head and torso, but ultimately died from drowning.

For almost four decades, Johnson’s alleged killer was unknown, though her neighbor was wrongly convicted and spent 18 years on death row before being exonerated.

On Monday, during a news conference, Canyon County officials named a new suspect — David Allen Dalrymple, a convicted sex offender.

Dalrymple, 62, is charged with the rape and murder of Johnson, Canyon County Prosecutor Bryan Taylor and Sheriff Kieran Donahue announced at the 2:30 p.m. conference.

“This is a day that a local family has been waiting for over nearly four decades. It’s a day that will in time see wrongs righted and justice served. Today begins the last chapter in the tragedy that began with the rape and murder of 9-year-old Daralyn Johnson in 1982,” Taylor told the group of people gathered in Justice Park for the announcement. “This is a matter some might describe as a cold case, but to the Canyon County Sheriff’s Office, it has remained an open and active investigation since the day forensic evidence alerted them that the perpetrator of this crime had not been brought to justice.”

Currently, Dalrymple is serving a 20-year-to-life sentence at the Idaho State Correctional Institution in Kuna after he was convicted in 2004 on charges of kidnapping, lewd conduct and sexual abuse involving a minor between the age of 9 and 11 in separate, Ada County case. Court records show Dalrymple appealed the conviction numerous times, but it was denied by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in 2012.

Taylor said the sheriff’s office will wait to serve Dalrymple with this latest warrant until sometime this summer because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the 62-year-old’s “ensured incarceration.”

“The decision will avoid significant complications in regard to witness travel, jail space and other issues that immediate criminal proceedings would bring in the already trying times we are in,” Taylor said. “We are looking forward to ensuring justice for Daralyn and the Johnson family. Our heart goes out to them, and we hope today’s news can bring some semblance of closure to both them and our community to a decadeslong nightmare.”

This is the second time someone has been charged in relation to Johnson’s rape and murder.

Charles Irvin Fain, a neighbor of the Johnsons, was convicted of her murder and given the death penalty in 1983, the Idaho Press previously reported. However, Fain, who always maintained his innocence, was exonerated and released from prison in 2001 — almost two decades later — after DNA testing found the hairs on the victim’s remains didn’t belong to him.

“Overall, I believed I was going to get out because I was innocent,” Fain told the Associated Press in 2001. “When this DNA stuff started coming on the news, something just told me it was going to be a part of this case.”

Donahue said the same evidence used to free Fain connected investigators to Dalrymple.

In 2018, the sheriff’s office had the remaining hairs found on Johnson’s body sent to a lab at the University of California-Santa Cruz, Donahue said. Lab technicians were able to determine the hairs belonged to a man, and more specifically, through genetic genealogy, “the Dalrymple family.”

“This line included a family of four boys and two girls from Idaho,” court records show.

Investigators were able to immediately eliminate the girls and then three of the four brothers, court records show. At the time of the crime, one of the boys was living in a different state and in the military, and the other two — 13 and 14 years old — were living in McCall and weren’t old enough to drive.

This led investigators to Dalrymple, who lived in Nampa when Johnson was killed. Court records show “the address was on the route (Johnson) would walk to school each morning.”

In December 2019, investigators were provided with a DNA sample from one of Dalrymple’s brothers, and the swabs were sent to the Santa Cruz lab, helping lab technicians develop a complete profile.

On Feb. 24, 2020 — exactly 38 years after Johnson’s body was found — investigators questioned Dalrymple.

When 62-year-old was told the interview was in reference to an 1982 abduction, “almost immediately, Dalrymple indicated he was not living in Nampa at the time,” court records show. He said he was in the military — although, he had been discharged in 1981. Dalrymple later claimed to have been living with his parents in McCall.

Dalrymple said he knew Fain had been arrested in the Johnson case and eventually exonerated.

Investigators then asked Dalrymple to provide a DNA sample, and he declined and told them to get a warrant, court records show. On March 12, a swab was taken after a use of force detention order was obtained.

And last week, on April 30, investigators received the results, which showed “Dalrymple’s DNA sample is genetically identical to the pubic hair found in (Johnson’s) underwear,” court records show.

The case is the second in Idaho within a year’s time in which genetic genealogy was used to identify a suspect in a decades-old murder in which an innocent man was convicted and sent to prison.

In May 2019, Idaho Falls police officers arrested Caldwell resident Brian Leigh Dripps for the 1996 rape and murder of Angie Dodge. Genetic genealogy was used to identify Dripps as a suspect and he was arrested after law enforcement matched DNA from a cigarette butt Dripps discarded to that found in evidence at the crime scene.

Christopher Tapp, who spent more than 20 years in prison for Dodge’s rape and murder, was exonerated in July of last year.

Donahue said the sheriff’s office believes the 62-year-old Dalrymple might have had additional victims. Court records alleged two of Dalrymple’s victims, who never disclosed the sexual abuse to law enforcement, spoke with investigators. One even said Dalrymple took her to a river near Eagle and threatened to “make her disappear” if she disclosed the abuse.

One of the victims was between the ages of 8 and 11; the other between 9 and 11, according to court records.

Donahue asked anyone with information in Johnson’s case and/or in relation to any additional victims to call the sheriff’s office at 208-454-7488 or Crime Stoppers at 208-343-COPS.

“We are imploring the public to please come forward,” he added.

Donahue, whose agency also was assisted by the FBI, said he’s assigned several detectives to the case, and has made it a top priority since he was elected to the sheriff’s office in 2012.

“Detectives who retired from this agency worked this case. Detectives who are currently with this agency worked this case. … None of this could’ve been done single-handedly; it took decades of effort of many individuals to get us to where we are today,” Donahue said.

“This case exemplifies that the passage of time does not deter law enforcement’s persistence for truth and justice,” said Paul Haertel, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Salt Lake City Field Office. “The FBI values our exceptional partnerships with local law enforcement, and we are grateful for the leadership of the Canyon County sheriff and the Canyon County prosecuting attorney. The results of this cooperative effort will provide Daralyn Johnson’s family the long-awaited answers they deserve.”

Olivia Heersink is the Canyon County public safety reporter. You can reach her at oheersink@idahopress.com, or by calling 208-465-8178. Follow her on Twitter @heersinkolivia.

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