Rape case shows changes needed at DPS - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Rape case shows changes needed at DPS

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Posted: Thursday, April 30, 2009 2:58 pm | Updated: 1:11 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Bill Richardson: On April 8, 2006, a young woman was raped at a Chandler park as she went for her morning run. Her life was turned upside down. Until justice is served, there will be a gap in the healing of the wounds inflicted by the rapist. Victims often worry their attacker will return.

On April 8, 2006, a young woman was raped at a Chandler park as she went for her morning run. Her life was turned upside down. Until justice is served, there will be a gap in the healing of the wounds inflicted by the rapist. Victims often worry their attacker will return.

I investigated more than 200 sex crimes, was classified as an expert in the field, and I never met a rapist who'd only committed the rape he was under arrest for. There were always other victims and a good probability there'd be more when the rapist got out of prison.

Only 16 percent of rapes are reported.

Years ago, solving a rape often hinged on the attacker's behaviors, looks and fingerprints. DNA testing hadn't come along yet.

With the arrival of DNA testing, the business of sex crimes investigations was given a godsend-like tool to be able to identify and link criminal acts. Many who had gotten away with rape might now be caught and prosecuted. More victims would see justice served and their wounds healed.

Because DNA can be found on almost anything a criminal touches, this technology can be used to solve or link any number of crimes. DNA analysis can save lives, misery and money, if done right.

The young woman who was attacked reported the crime to the Chandler Police Department. According to police, DNA evidence was obtained and sent to the Arizona Department of Public Safety crime lab on April 11, 2006.

One of DPS's primary statutory functions is to support local law enforcement agencies and run the state crime lab to meet those needs. As anyone who watches "CSI" on TV knows, the crime lab is one of the cornerstones of effective police work.

On April 17, 2006, Chandler police were notified by DPS that a DNA profile was developed from the evidence they submitted but no matches were found in the national database on DNA samples taken from crime scenes, suspects and convicted felons. Like with many rape cases, Chandler police had temporarily hit a dead end.

Another of DPS's statutory functions is to store the state's criminal records. Unfortunately, the state hasn't kept pace with available technologies that can link past and present crimes through an automated search of available criminal justice records.

In the case of The Baseline Killer, records of his past criminal behaviors were on file in multiple criminal justice agencies, but the different files couldn't be linked. This system failure surely led to his crime spree continuing for far too long.

On March 12, 2007, Guadalupe Olivas was sent to the Arizona Department of Corrections for drug and forgery violations. Corrections officials told me a DNA sample was taken and immediately sent to DPS, where it sat for more than a year. Olivas was released on April Fools' Day in 2008.

In May 2008, DPS notified Chandler police they'd linked the 2006 park rape to Olivas, a month after his release from prison. Now there's a suspected rapist on the loose.

DPS said they are looking into the situation. Hopefully they're looking for Olivas, too.

A veteran police detective sergeant told me DPS's attention and resources have shifted from its less glamorous responsibilities to the publicity grabbing and politically popular causes of immigration enforcement and border issues. Arizona has plenty of serious crime beyond its immigration and border problems.

In 2007 there were 1,797 rapes in Arizona. A woman was raped every 5 hours. Overall there were over 310,000 serious felony crimes reported. Only about 20 percent were solved. Arizona's inadequate statewide crime lab and information collection and sharing systems contributes greatly to a criminal escaping justice and continuing to inflict pain on Arizona residents.

This week happens to be National Crime Victims' Rights Week. Remember what I said about rapists, their victims and what can happen when they get out of prison? So much for one woman's healing process.

Retired Mesa master police officer Bill Richardson lives in the East Valley and can be reached at bill.richardson@cox.net.

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