DNA evidence has helped crack a 5-year-old case and led to charges against a Gardiner man alleging that he broke into a Farmingdale garage and tried to steal a car, police said.

Daniel L. Nelson, 30, was charged Wednesday with burglary and aggravated criminal mischief, both of which are felonies, said Maine State Police Trooper Christopher Rogers.

“He was a little surprised,” Rogers said. “He didn’t recall the incident when I initially interviewed him.”

Rogers responded to the burglary complaint on May 13, 2007. He said the thief rummaged through the garage, at one point damaging a control console for an electric fence, and ripped the gear shift off a car.

“It looked like he was trying to hot-wire it,” Rogers said. “He made it halfway down the driveway and couldn’t get any farther.”

Evidence left by the thief included blood on the steering wheel, Rogers said. He took a sample and sent it to the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System, also called CODIS, hoping to identify a suspect. No match was found, Rogers said.

Fast-forward four years to last June. CODIS had turned up a match for the sample Rogers submitted in May 2007. Nelson had recently submitted a DNA sample as part of his probation requirements, Rogers said.

“I met with Daniel while he was in jail and took another swab and submitted it,” Rogers said. He received confirmation on Tuesday that the samples Rogers submitted in June matched the blood he had tested in May 2007.

Five years later, Nelson is charged with burglary and aggravated criminal mischief.

Nelson is not charged with burglary from a vehicle because the statute of limitations expired in 2010, Rogers said, while the limit on the theft and aggravated criminal mischief charges was set to expire in summer 2013. The mischief charge is aggravated because it caused more than $2,000 in damage, Rogers said.

Nelson has an extensive criminal record, which includes a charge of grant theft auto in Florida, Rogers said.

According to published court records, Nelson was sentenced to four years in prison, all but four months suspended, and two years probation, for April 2010 convictions in Kennebec County Superior Court of eluding an officer, operating after suspension, driving to endanger, operating under the influence, criminal speed and theft.

Last year, Nelson was sentenced in Kennebec County Superior Court to seven days in jail and fined $600 for convictions of operating after suspension and three counts of violating conditions of release. He’s also been convicted on charges of assault, theft and criminal trespass.

Rogers said the active investigation into the Farmingdale burglary had been put on hold pending additional leads.

But, “we never give up on an investigation,” he said.

Craig Crosby–621-5642

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