DNA on ski mask leads to arrest in 1999 Virginia Beach cold case

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VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) —  It was around 7 p.m. on November 29, 1999, when a 25-year-old man went to take out the trash while working at an Asian grocery store in Virginia Beach.

While dumping the garbage, he was attacked.

10 On Your Side talked to the victim, although he wanted his identity concealed.

“He pointed a gun at me and demanded my money,” said the victim.

He says the gun was pressed against his head.

“I was in disbelief because this never happened to me before,” he added.

He handed over all the cash he had on him, which was only 3 dollars, then got scared and ran as shots were going off behind him.

“I just started running this way and I couldn’t get out of the way while he was shooting, so I tried to duck behind the trash cans,” he said.

He managed to get away with just a shot to the shoulder.

“That I can not explain. Probably by the grace of God,” he explained.

He’s now in his 40s and says he’s moved on from the incident.

However, in 2016 he got a call from police saying they had finally cracked the case.

Changes in the National DNA Index System procedures allowed officials to re-submit the ski mask found at the scene.

They had gotten a hit almost twenty years later for 35-year-old Clifford Lee, who says they have the wrong guy.

“All I can say is not guilty. I don’t have a story,” said Lee from behind the jail glass.

He said he never owned a ski mask and didn’t want to do any more time.

Lee explained he’s been in jail since he was 18 years old, after pleading guilty to a manslaughter charge in New York.

His trial is scheduled to start February 12, but officials say that will most likely get postponed.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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