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DNA may lead to new clues in 25-year-old murder case

DNA found on a threatening letter from decades ago may offer valuable clues to solving a murder case involving a little boy who was killed in 1984. Crucially, the DNA samples don't match those of the parents of 'Little Gregory'.

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Investigators said Thursday they may have a new lead in one of France's longest-running criminal mysteries, the murder of a little boy in 1985, after finding DNA on a threatening letter sent to his parents after his death.

The body of four-year-old Gregory Villemin was found drowned in the Vologne river in eastern France in October 1984. The following day, a letter arrived at his parents' home claiming responsibility for the murder and saying it was "revenge." The Villemins had been receiving anonymous hate mail ahead of Gregory's death.

The boy's killing sparked a 17-year-long legal saga that transfixed France. The case was closed in 2001 without identifying either the murderer or the sender of the mysterious letters.

Prosecutors relaunched the probe last December in light of new DNA testing techniques. The results of a five months of analysis were filed with the state prosecutor in eastern Dijon on Thursday.

The analysis revealed two sets of DNA on a letter sent to Gregory's family nine months after his murder, prosecutor Jean-Marie Beney told AFP.

"We found two identifiable sets of DNA on the sealed evidence: a woman's DNA on or under the stamp of one of the letters from the poison-pen writer and a man's DNA on the same letter," Beney said.

The letter -- sent to Albert and Monique Villemin, the boy's grandparents -- contained a threat against the entire family. "I will do you in, the Villemin family, Monique is next on the list."

According to an expert quoted in Le Parisien newspaper, the next step will be to compare the new DNA samples with those of everyone known to be involved with the case as well as all investigators who handled the pieces of evidence.

The DNA tests were carried out at the request of the boy's parents, Christine and Jean-Marie Villemin, who both served time in prison in connection with their son's killing.

They lawyer Marie-Christine Chastant-Morand said Thursday her clients "still hope to discover the truth".

Tangled family ties

A cousin of the child's father, Bernard Laroche, was charged a month after the murder based on evidence given by a teenage sister-in-law.

He was released after she withdrew her claims, but was later shot dead in March 1985 by Grogory's father Jean-Marie, who spent two and a half years in prison for the crime. The threatening letters continued after Laroche's death.

Later that year, Gregory's mother Christine was charged with his murder. She was cleared eight years later and all charges were dropped.

The couple now lives with their two children south of Paris. They continue to insist that Laroche was responsible for their son's death.
  

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