DNA gives new lead in cold case
Cold case investigators have issued an arrest warrant for a Baton Rouge man accused of forcing a woman into a vacant home and raping her at gunpoint in December 2002.
Authorities said they cracked the case by having a key piece of evidence tested for DNA for the first time: a condom collected at the crime scene. Though more than a decade has passed, analysts at the Louisiana State Police Crime Lab located DNA from the victim as well as the suspect, 31-year-old Randy L. Jackson, who is wanted on one count of aggravated rape, court records show.
Baton Rouge police Lt. Don Kelly said Monday that the condom had not been submitted for analysis in 2002 because a sexual assault exam, or rape kit, was considered “the more probative evidence because it came directly from the victim and it was possible a discarded condom in an abandoned house may not have even been connected to this case.”
DNA testing in 2002 was “significantly slower and more expensive,” Kelly noted, “with a tremendous and ever-growing backlog of cases being sent for analysis.”
“So it was even more important then to prioritize and test the most potentially valuable evidence,” he said. “It’s very possible that even had the condom been submitted, it would not have been tested.”
The alleged rape occurred at 3 a.m. Dec. 3, 2002. A 36-year-old woman was walking down Madison Avenue in north Baton Rouge when Jackson approached her with a gun, according to police.
“If you scream, I will shoot you,” Jackson said, according to the arrest warrant. “I don’t give a damn.”
The woman told investigators she was grabbed by the arm and led into an abandoned house in the 1900 block of Hemlock Street.
“The suspect told the victim to come inside or he was going to hurt her,” the warrant says. “The victim did not resist out of fear the suspect would harm her.”
The warrant says Jackson raped the woman and ordered her to remain in the house until he was gone.
At the time of the rape, investigators collected evidence from a sexual assault exam and sent it to the State Police Crime Lab, though no suspect was developed. The 2002 rape kit submission was apparently not processed until 2007, Kelly said, when a profile was obtained from a DNA swab and entered into a national database.
“It appears this was a mixed profile containing DNA from both the victim and the unidentified suspect,” Kelly said. “That mixed profile has been in CODIS since 2007 but apparently never matched to an offender.”
Less than two months ago, the case was assigned to Detective Christopher McDowell, who began looking through the case files and noticed a report mentioning the condom found at the crime scene, according to the warrant.
Police submitted that evidence to the lab and quickly learned of the results, highlighting the lab’s unprecedented turnaround time and the eliminated backlog recently touted by Gov. Bobby Jindal and State Police Col. Mike Edmonson.
McDowell submitted the evidence “hoping that perhaps a better profile could be obtained than that yielded by the 2002 rape kit,” Kelly said, “as training, technology and equipment have greatly improved since then and the huge backlog that existed back then has since been cleared.”
Last week, police tracked down the victim in the case, who said she didn’t know anyone named Randy Jackson. “The victim also stated this was the only incident where she had been inside this abandoned house,” the warrant says, “and therefore the DNA from the condom had to be from this incident.”
Court records show Jackson has been arrested a number of times over the past decade on an array of charges, including once in 2010 in a battery of a police officer case. In that case, he was accused of fighting with a trooper who had pulled him over, breaking his Oakley glasses.
Kelly said the DNA match underscored the impact of a federal cold case grant that provides the department funds and time to review old cases.
The Metro Council this month is expected to accept a $40,000 increase in that grant, bringing the total award to more than $170,000.
“It’s unfortunate the match didn’t occur sooner, and in hindsight it’s always very easy to look backward,” Kelly said of the Jackson case. “But in the end, it’s the cold case process and funding that has helped us solve many crimes like this that otherwise never would have been cleared.”