Wednesday, June 19, 2013
DNA Evidence Cracks 20-Year-Old Mat-Su Valley Rape Cold Case
Troopers say suspect killed himself shortly after his DNA sample was collected
It’s been 20 years since an 8-year-old girl was kidnapped from a bus stop near Wasilla and sexually assaulted.
Troopers say they now know who was responsible because of DNA evidence.
There are nearly 30,000 DNA samples at the Alaska Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory from people who have been convicted of or arrested for various crimes against other people, i.e. sexual assault, robbery, assault.
One of those samples contains the answer to the 20-year-old cold case.
“It's a very powerful tool,” said Orin Dym, forensic laboratory manager of DNA technology.
On Feb. 7, 1991, an 8-year-old girl was waiting for a bus at Mile 3.5 Fairview Loop Road near Wasilla when a man forced her into a pickup truck and drove her to a house, where she told Troopers he sexually assaulted her for about two-and-a-half hours before dropping her off on Vine Road
“It's scary,” said Samantha Campbell, whose own sister, Bonnie Craig, was also kidnapped from a bus stop and raped in September of 1994 in what’s one of Alaska’s most infamous murder cold cases.
DNA evidence led Troopers to Kenneth Dion, who was convicted in June of raping and killing the young college student.
“It's so scary,” Campbell said of the 1991 case. “It's so similar to Bonnie's case. Bonnie was walking to school to catch a bus. It hits close to home. It's incredible how close it is. But I’m glad that this victim was able to make it out alive. Unfortunately, it's a horrendous thing to have to go through for anybody.”
Investigators spent thousands of hours investigating hundreds of leads before the trail to the Wasilla rapist went cold—until last September, when the state crime lab reported a match to a DNA sample collected in 2006.
Troopers said the sample belonged to Brooks E. Jackson, a 46-year-old Wasilla man who had been convicted in 2005 of a drug charge.
But six days after Jackson provided that sample, family members found him dead of an apparent suicide in his Wasilla home, Troopers said.
It would be another four years, however, before the link was made between Jackson and the 8-year-old girl Troopers now say he sexually assaulted.
“This is a prime reason why backlogs are unacceptable at a crime laboratory,” Dym said. “This is the real effect of what happens when you have a backlog. It's just sitting there four years waiting to get an answer that was there.”
Why did it take so long?
“I got here in 2007,” said Dym. “That sample was one of 18,000 samples that got cleared when we started working that. At the time that sample came in, it came in on the tail end of an outsourcing project where database samples were sent out to be worked. That money had run out, that sample came in, and then you run the time lag from the time where the state legislature passed the bill making arrestee samples viable to come into the database. They passed the law, they provided funding, they provided for people, we hired people, we trained people, we brought on the equipment and again cleared out 18,000 samples.”
Dym says the turnaround for processing DNA samples is now less than 30 days.
The state began collecting DNA samples of those convicted of committing crimes against other persons back in 1996.
That was broadened in 2007—thanks to the efforts of Karen Foster, Craig’s mother—to include DNA samples of all convicted felons and anyone arrested of committing a crime against a person.