Having Properly Accredited Private Laboratories assist authorities on DNA Collection and Analysis
In the New York and New Jersey area alone, over a period of approximately 10 years, had DNA samples been collected and analyzed by authorities more than 30 rapes, robberies, sexual assaults or deaths could have been prevented if laboratories were not backlogged, if DNA was collected and perpetrators identified after the first offense rather than after the 13th offense.
This report was prepared by Smith Alling Lane in partnership with Washington State University through the support of a grant awarded by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice (Grant 2002-LT-BX-K 003). Points of view or opinions in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the United States Department of Justice
THREE PREVENTABLE RAPES
In mid-May 1998, a woman was raped at a public library in Essex County. One month later, a second woman was raped in a library. DNA samples were taken from both cases and loaded into the DNA database, where it was discovered that the two rapes were linked. Importantly, in matching these cases to each other, DNA also excluded two men being held by police as possible suspects.
In late June of 1998, a child was abducted and raped. A DNA sample was collected and sent to a private laboratory for testing, and the victim provided a description of the attacker to police.
The police eventually identified a suspect, and DNA testing subsequently tied him to the child attack. After the sample was loaded into the state database, it was discovered that the same offender was the library rapist. Additionally, the same DNA profile was eventually matched to an October 1999 rape in New York City.
The offender had a prior felony arrest on a weapons possession charge. The charge was later reduced to a misdemeanor crime to which the offender pled guilty. If a DNA sample had been required of felony charges that result in misdemeanor convictions, the perpetrator couldhave been identified after the first rape,thereby preventing the following three rapes.
SEVEN PREVENTABLE ROBBERIES, FIVE PREVENTABLE RAPES
In October of 2002, the first in a series of ten robberies began. The incidents included seven aggravated sexual assaults, spanned four months and included victims in at least nine different New Jersey cities.
A person known to the police became a strong suspect in the first offense, and a DNA sample was collected from him four days later. A DNA match was finally made in January of 2003 to the third offense, but only after a unit commander requested expedited testing of the evidence.
The offender in question was convicted in the 1980's on federal felony robberies charges, and was released from a federal prison in 1999. Unfortunately, the federal government did not begin requiring DNA from felony robbery convictions until 2000. Moreover, law enforcement had custody of all the DNA information that they needed to arrest this offender within only a few weeks of the first offense. The omission of his DNA from the federalDNA database, along with the backlog delay in processing DNA evidence, allowed the offender to remain on the streets. With stronger federal statutes and shorter DNA testing delays, the perpetrator could have been identified after the third attack, thereby preventing
the subsequent seven robberies and five rapes.
FOUR PREVENTABLE RAPES
Between April of 2002 and May of 2003, five women were raped in the Trenton area. DNA testing linked all five offenses to the same unknown perpetrator. After police released a composite sketch of the suspect in 2003, nearly 75 tips were called in identifying the same person. In June 2003, U.S. Marshals eventually arrested the suspect in Pennsylvania on a parole violation warrant that was issued in July of 2002. Trenton Police obtained a DNA sample from the suspect through a court order, and thanks to expedited testing at the state laboratory the man was linked to the crimes within a few days. The charges on 16 counts
involving five victims are pending as the suspect awaits extradition to New Jersey from Pennsylvania.
The suspect's criminal record included two felony convictions for theft and forgery related offenses in New Jersey, and nine felony convictions for theft, forgery, and receiving stolen property in Pennsylvania. If the suspect had been required to give a DNA sample for any of these crimes in either state, he could have been identified after the first assault, thereby preventing the subsequent four rapes.
THIRTEEN PREVENTABLE RAPES
In August of 1993 a young woman was raped in the Bronx in what was to be the first of up to 51 rapes attributed to the same offender over a five-year period. The perpetrator was dubbed the "Bronx Rapist" by the media. A person known to the police became a suspect when he was identified in a transaction involving a victim's jewelry at a pawnshop. He was arrested and subsequent DNA testing linked him to several of the rapes. He has been convicted on fourteen counts of rape in the Bronx, six counts of sexual abuse, nineteen counts of robbery, and two counts of criminal possession of a weapon.He has been sentenced to two life sentences.
This offender had a prior conviction in 1989 for felony robbery and assault, for which he received a seven-year sentence. If the State of New York had begun requiring DNA from all convicted felons in 1990 this offender would have been on the DNA database prior to the first rape in 1993, and at least thirteen rapes could have been prevented. Moreover, when New York's database was established in 1994, an inclusion of all convicted felons and retroactive application to persons previously convicted but still under supervision would have captured this offender's DNA sample much earlier in the investigation.
TWO PREVENTABLE SEXUAL ASSAULTS, ONE PREVENTABLE DEATH
From 1991 to 1999, three young women were murdered in New York City and four others were raped. The youngest victim was 13, and several of the crimes were noted for their brutality. During the course of the investigation, police identified a man who had just been released from jail for a sex crime in the same area in which a victim had been raped. He had been seen in the neighborhood just before and after the rape, and was picked out of a lineup. The man was jailed for four months, but DNA testing subsequently eliminated the man as a suspect.
Another person known to the police became a suspect in these crimes in 1999 and was placed under surveillance by police. He was eventually arrested on petty theft charges and DNA testing later linked him to evidence from the crimes. This person had been released from custody pending the DNA testing, and was arrested again in Miami after the DNA match was made. He was found with a young woman who may have been his next victim. This offender was found guilty on twenty-two counts, and sentenced to 400 years in prison.
This offender had been convicted of felony robbery in 1992 at a time when New York did not collect DNA samples from criminals convicted of felony robbery. Moreover, if a 1996 expansion of the database to include robbery convictions had been applied retroactively, he could have been required to provide a DNA sample at this point. The sample would have been linked to one of the previous crimes, thereby preventing at least two sexual assaults against juveniles and one death. It is also worth noting that a sooner DNA match would have prevented an innocent man from spending four months in prison.
SEVEN PREVENTABLE RAPES AND ROBBERIES
In 2001 it was revealed that New York City had between 14,000 and 16,000 unanalyzed rape kits that were sitting in a storage rooms. Through a focused backlog reduction program, the City has been analyzing the rape kits and loading them into the state DNA database system. In 2002, two unsolved rapes that were part of the backlog reduction project were connected to the same offender. The offender's criminal history included five prior arrests which resulted in
two separate felony convictions - in 1991 for robbery and sexual abuse, and in 1997 for armed robbery. Although New York was not collecting DNA from robbery convictions in 1997, a 2000 law expanded the database to include robbery and included offenders who were still incarcerated for previous convictions. Upon release in 2001, the offender in question was required to give a DNA sample for the database.
This offender was arrested in December 2001 for a series of rapes and robberies (seven separate incidents). If the 1996 rape kits had been tested sooner, this person would have been linked to these assaults in 2001 prior to his release, thereby preventing the subsequent 7 attacks occurring after his release.