Posted on | January 16, 2015 | 42 Comments
Serial rapist DeShawn Starks
Here’s the headline:
In 2009, more than 10,000 untested rape kits (i.e., vaginal swabs from victims, containing the DNA of rapists) were found abandoned in a Detroit Police storage facility. Some cases dated back to the 1980s:
Not long after the rape kits were discovered, [Wayne County Prosecutor Kym] Worthy pushed to start the processing with Michigan State Police.
So far, 1,600 rape kits have been processed, resulting in the identification of about 100 serial rapists and ten convicted rapists, according to Worthy.
Worthy told reporters that perpetrators have moved on from Michigan to commit similar crimes in 23 other states.
This is mind-boggling. Processing roughly 1/8th of these DNA samples (1,600 out of 10,000) has identified 100 serial rapists who have committed sexual assaults in 23 states. So by the time they’re through processing the entire backlog, the pattern of Detroit’s previously unknown rapists could look like a national crime wave. And if you think about it just a little, you realize how, prior to the development of DNA testing, such serial rapists faced a comparatively low risk of apprehension. More and more women are victimized the longer the predator remains on the streets:
Fourteen prosecutions have resulted from what is being called the “Detroit Rape Kit Project”, including the case of DeShawn Starks, 32.
On February 19, 2003, Starks pretended to be having stomach pains as he approached a woman who was returning to her home in Detroit, according to prosecutors. Starks pulled out a gun, robbed the woman, then drove her to a wooded area where he raped her. The woman’s unprocessed rape kit remained in storage for ten years until Worthy’s office launched their investigations into the abandoned rape kits. DNA linked Starks to that case.
Prosecutors says Starks went on to rape another woman in 2003. That rape kit was also placed in storage and left unprocessed for ten years.
On November 19, 2013, investigators say Starks struck again, raping two friends as they were walking home from a family gathering.
Starks was just sentenced to 45 to 90 years in prison.
That’s four rapes by one criminal over a period of 10 years. Horrifying. The good news is that law enforcement agencies have spent years developing a national DNA database of criminal offenders. States are beginning to recognize the importance of expanding this database. In Nevada, lawmakers in 2013 passed “Brianna’s Law” which “requires law enforcement officers to take a DNA swab test for all felony arrests.” A suspect arrested in Nevada for any felony — assault, burglary, car theft, drug trafficking, etc. — will automatically be tested.
Brianna Denison (left), James Biela (right)
“Brianna’s Law” is named for Brianna Denison, who was kidnapped, raped and murdered in 2008 by serial rapist James Michael Biela. Before he killed Denison, Biela had raped 19-year-old Amanda Collins in a parking lot near the campus of the University of Nevada-Reno:
Amanda Collins, 25, is a wife and new mom, and a concealed weapon permit holder for years. At her father’s law office in Reno, she showed us the 9-mm Glock she carries for her safety.
“It’s got a pretty standard magazine,” she said, “and night sights so you can see in the dark when you’re aiming.”
However, Collins couldn’t aim her gun at the serial rapist who attacked her at the University of Nevada at Reno, where she was a student. That’s because, like most public colleges outside of Utah and Colorado, UNR is a “gun free” zone. The rule required her to leave her gun at home, leaving her defenseless the one time she needed its protection most.
In October of 2007, while walking to her car after a night class, Collins was grabbed from behind in a university parking garage less than 300 yards from a campus police office. The school’s “gun-free” designation meant nothing to James Biela, a serial rapist with a gun of his own, who saw Collins as an easy target. “He put a firearm to my temple,” she recounted, “clocked off the safety, and told me not to say anything, before he raped me.”
The university has since installed more emergency call boxes and lights in the parking structure, but Collins says that won’t stop an attacker who knows the campus is a gun-free zone, a policy she believes invites crime, and may have even emboldened the man who raped her.
DNA testing is important, but the right of self-defense is more important. A woman with a gun can stop a rapist — permanently.