A violent encounter last week led to an arrest in the cold case of a Gainesville woman found dead 11 years ago.
Daniel Lee Mason III, 40, of Atlanta was arrested after police were called Wednesday night to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to investigate an attack on a 39-year-old woman. He was then tied to the April 2001 death of Crystal Star Barnette, 37, who police say died from blunt force trauma to the head.
The break in the case “was the result of immense similarities in both cases,” Gainesville Police Chief Brian Kelly said at a press conference Monday.
Both women were walking when they were attacked less than a city block from each other, Kelly said.
Mason is charged with murder and aggravated assault in the 2001 case. He is charged with aggravated battery, robbery by force, sexual battery, theft by taking, possession of cocaine and giving false information to an officer in Wednesday’s attack. He is being held without bond at the Hall County Jail.
Police did not release the name of the assault victim, but said in both cases, the victim knew the suspect.
“From the investigation it is known that Mr. Mason was originally from Gainesville — he was born and raised in Gainesville, lived in Gainesville,” Kelly said.
Talking about Barnette specifically, he said, “it’s our understanding that they had communications growing up in a similar area.”
Kelly said police have a motive in the case, but are “keeping that close for investigative purposes.” Police are looking into other open cases that could be tied to Mason, in both Gainesville and outside the city.
Kelly released few other details because DNA evidence is still being processed.
Barnette’s case went cold after police were never able to find an eyewitness, despite talking to more than 100 people, according to Times archives.
Barnette had been visiting relatives on High Street before leaving between 2:30 and 3:30 a.m. April 1, a Gainesville investigator said at the time.
A passer-by discovered Barnette’s body in a vacant lot on High Street and the death was ruled a homicide, with both the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Gainesville police investigating.
Within a year, the investigation went cold, but Kelly said Monday investigators continued to rotate following up on the case.
For Barnette’s family, the arrest is welcome news.
“They were relieved that we had made an arrest in this case,” Kelly said. “Of course it does open up those feelings from 11 years ago that they’re going to have to start going through again.”
Kelly concluded the press conference by saying that the department is “grateful to be able to make a move to close this case.”
“We hope again that it does give some to closure to Crystal’s family,” he added.