They Had a DNA Match in 1993. It Wasn't Enough

'Mother Jones' looks at the trouble with DNA advances and our statutes of limitations
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 1, 2019 7:15 PM CDT
Updated Jul 2, 2019 12:11 AM CDT
DNA Pointed to the Same Man. It Took Decades to Get Him
   (Getty Images)

When law enforcement officials came to Mary-Scott Hunter's door in March 2018 to say the man suspected of raping her was in custody, it wasn't for that crime. She was raped in 1987, when the statute of limitations on rape in Minnesota was just three years. The man being held, Darrell Rea, had been tied to a 1983 murder using decades-old DNA evidence that returned a hit; the connection to Hunter surfaced when other old Minneapolis rape kits were tested in a bid to uncover more DNA matches to Rea. In a lengthy piece for Mother Jones, Madison Pauly paints a picture of a man who managed to attack with impunity for decades, but places his crimes in a larger context: "Despite ... sleuthing advances" like genealogy and the increased testing of old rape kits, "a group of survivors is still precluded from getting justice in the legal system."

Pauly writes that Rea had been in Minneapolis cops' sights for four decades. But "each case proceeded in fits and starts, hindered by problems common to sexual violence investigations—witnesses dropping out, bias against certain types of victims, and, yes, expiring statutes of limitations." Pauly talks to Rea's stepdaughters, now in their 40s, who describe being molested and raped by him. Investigators managed to get DNA evidence in 1993 linking Rea to a 1988 attack on a young sex worker who managed to survive despite having an ice pick-like tool jammed into her neck. Prosecutors turned the case down, in part because the statute of limitations had expired. It would be 20 more years before his DNA returned another match, this time linking him to the murder of a 17-year-old—a crime Rea could finally be prosecuted for. He was sentenced to 10 years in late June. (Read the full story for much more on Rea, his alleged victims, and the quest for justice.)

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