Sunday, January 3, 2010

D.C. cops uncover multiple rapists

District police face the possibility that nearly a dozen rapists who each have claimed multiple victims are still preying on area women after forensic scientists linked 11 unsolved rapes to similar attacks in the region, The Examiner has learned.

Forensic technicians tested DNA samples from dozens of unsolved crimes and found nearly two dozen "hits," or matches with an FBI database, a law enforcement source said.

D.C.'s DNA "hits"
» 23 matches to the FBI database

» Two homicides linked to two different known offenders.

» Eight unsolved rapes linked to eight different known offenders.

» 11 unsolved rapes linked to 11 other unsolved rapes.

Two homicides have been linked to offenders who were already in the massive database; another eight unsolved rapes have been linked to eight separate convicts; and 11 unsolved rapes matched the same DNA pattern from unsolved rapes in the region, including one in Northern Virginia, another in Prince George's County and the rest in the District, the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the cases.

Detectives are now scrambling to build cases against the known offenders and to find the unknown men behind the DNA traces in the unsolved cases.

Criminologists agree that those who attack strangers are likely to be serial rapists. The crime-to-crime links uncovered by D.C. technicians may be just the tip of the iceberg.

"It could just be a portion of crimes he's committed," said Walter Rowe, chairman of George Washington University's forensic science program. "These people generally rack up a fairly large number of assaults before they're actually caught."

By linking separate assaults, detectives have a better chance of breaking a case because it expands the pool of witnesses, crime scenes and evidence.

The "hits," documented in a memo circulated among detectives, represent the first scientific breakthrough for the department in decades. While other police agencies routinely use DNA evidence to solve even low-level burglaries, the D.C. police department has struggled to build its own forensic program.

In fact, the department is in the midst of a bitter struggle over control of the forensics program. William Vosburgh, the man who was brought in to build up the program -- and whose technicians obtained the most recent "hits" -- wants the crime lab to be independent. Chief Cathy Lanier is fighting to have the lab under her own control.

D.C. Councilman Phil Mendelson, D-at large, a longtime advocate for a modern crime lab, said the DNA matches "show the importance of the technology."

"It'll make a big difference to lock these people up," he said.

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