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DNA evidence has identified a prime suspect in the rape and beating death of Lynda Shaw, a slaying that has remained a mystery in Southern Ontario for 15 years.

But for the family of the young victim, the identity of the alleged perpetrator has not brought closure: Police say that before killing Ms. Shaw, the man was convicted in a double murder and served 12 years in prison -- his life sentence shortened by the parole board because of good behaviour. He left the halfway house just before Ms. Shaw was killed.

And, he's dead.

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Ontario Provincial Police refused to identify him, but sources told Canadian Press that his name was Allan Craig MacDonald, who had been convicted in the 1975 shooting death of a police officer and taxi driver in Dartmouth, N.S., and paroled a year before Ms. Shaw was slain.

Mr. MacDonald died in 1994; he was in prison on issues unrelated to the death of Ms. Shaw.

At a news conference yesterday, the OPP would say only that the man committed suicide in 1994, that he had lived 75 kilometres from where Ms. Shaw was killed, and that there was no other connection between victim and suspect.

"If he were alive today, he'd be in custody right now and charged with her murder," OPP Detective Inspector Randy Rosiak said during the news conference.

However, Mr. MacDonald was not a person of interest during the investigation more than a decade ago, police said.

Ms. Shaw's mother issued a statement condemning the justice system for failing her daughter.

"I feel that Lynda and our family have been betrayed by a federal judicial system that put a cold-blooded murderer back on the street," Carol Taylor said in the written statement. "Lynda was a victim of our justice system and, in particular, of a parole board that acted irresponsibly in releasing this man from prison. Lynda certainly was not the first such victim and, regrettably, she will not be the last, as long as our elected politicians allow such a 'justice' system to continue."

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Ms. Shaw left her family's home in Huttonville, about 45 kilometres northwest of Toronto, during the Easter weekend of 1990, headed back to the University of Western Ontario in London to write her exams.

The 21-year-old began the drive of about 160 kilometres late at night and, just after midnight, stopped at a Burger King restaurant near Ingersoll.

"Somebody tampered with the tire, that caused it to deflate," Det. Insp. Rosiak said.

Ms. Shaw's car was found abandoned about 10 kilometres away on Highway 401, close to her destination.

About a week later, her body was found in a bush beside the highway in North Dorchester Township, several kilometres from where her car was left.

Close to her body laid her folded Western engineering jacket and a burnt, blue-hooded coat with plaid lining that police believe belonged to the killer.

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Police say she had been beaten, stabbed and raped. Her body had been partially burned.

Police are still looking for a second suspect they believe responsible for disposing of Ms. Shaw's body.

"It was a case that went straight to the heart of investigators," Det. Insp. Rosiak said. "We never forgot about Lynda."

More than 200 officers were involved in solving the slaying. They sifted through more than 8,500 tips, interviewed 2,600 people, took 3,000 statements and collected more than 400 blood, saliva and hair samples.

The investigators considered and dismissed Paul Bernardo, the killer of two Ontario schoolgirls.

Ms. Shaw's case was never closed, but processing so many samples took almost a decade, Det. Insp. Rosiak said.

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"We took 400 samples and each sample takes 30 days" to process, he said.

The man police identified yesterday was one of 40 local parolees who gave a hair sample in the early nineties.

Back then, the samples were taken for hair comparison, as the technology to extract and map DNA wasn't available until 1995. Thus the samples were cut, instead of pulled from the root.

The break in the case occurred when police found out that half of the hair samples contained enough DNA to make a comparison.

The hairs were sent in for processing in May. In July, police found a hit, a match between the suspect's hair and semen removed from Ms. Shaw's body after she was slain.

"We were ecstatic," Det. Insp. Rosiak said. "There was a lot of excitement when we got the hit. [We were]only upset that we don't get to take him to court."

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