Friday, December 26, 2008

DNA leads to charges in years old Yakima County rape cases

An unknown rape suspect has been charged in connection with two attacks that happened more than seven years ago — based only on DNA.

By Mark Morey

Yakima Herald-Republic

YAKIMA — An unknown rape suspect has been charged in connection with two attacks that happened more than seven years ago — based only on DNA.

The charges are the first time such a case has been filed in Yakima County, said deputy prosecutor Patti Powers, who handles many of the county's sex-crime cases.

The move stops the clock on the statute of limitations, which would expire 10 years from the incidents.

If the suspect is arrested in connection with another crime that requires the collection of DNA — such as rape or another violent offense — then Yakima County's charges could be pursued.

As DNA technology has improved, police around the country have reviewed older cases in hopes of making a match.

Yakima police Capt. Greg Copeland said detectives have examined most or all of the pending cases in which they believe DNA could be useful.

The analysis was performed at a state crime labs. The Washington State Patrol, which operates the labs, does not track how many DNA-only rape charges have been filed, but several similar cases have been filed in other counties.

The two sexual assaults mentioned in the charges — which were filed last week — are a rare example of stranger rape in the Yakima area, Copeland said. Most rape cases involve family members or acquaintances.

The first case was reported on July 27, 2000. A woman who was then 38 years old said she was walking from a downtown nightclub around midnight when the attacker walked up behind her near Fifth Avenue and D Street. He grabbed her and said he would walk her home, then led her toward some bushes, where he raped her, according to the police report.

The second case was reported on Feb. 26, 2001.

A woman, who was then 54 years old, reported she was looking for the family's pet in the 500 block of North Second Street when the suspect walked up from behind her. He overpowered and sexually assaulted her, according to the police report.

The victims were only able to provide a vague description of the suspect.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Driver arrested after striking pedestrian on SR 202

P-I Staff

A Bellevue man was arrested late Sunday after his vehicle struck a pedestrian walking along State Route 202 in Fall City, the Washington State Patrol reported.

The 53-year-old driver was booked into the King County Jail for investigation of vehicular assault. The pedestrian, Matthew R. Mahaffey, 34, of Snoqualmie, was taken to Harborview Medical Center, the State Patrol reported.

The collision was reported just before 7:30 p.m. The 1991 Honda Civic was heading west when it struck Mahaffey. Investigators think the driver was under the influence, the State Patrol reported.