The Associated Press reports that North Carolina police have made an arrest in connection with two cold cases involving sexual assault. DNA evidence recovered from rape kits in the cases dating from 1988 were left untested until recently, when Zellie Edwards, 49, was identified as the offender. He has been charged with two counts of second-degree rape and one count of second-degree kidnapping, says the AP.
Since Edwards was a habitual offender, he was required to submit DNA to the national database, which helped to match it to the two kits from decades ago.
In September of 1988, a 16-year-old girl was walking home when her assailant followed her and took her into a vacant apartment before assaulting her. Later, in April 1994, the same offender approached a 17-year-old girl who was walking home before assaulting her in a wooded area.
When these attacks occurred, there were no such DNA databases to gleam information from. Both victims were notified of the arrest and expressed relief to authorities.
Congress didn’t mandate DNA testing and contributions to the database until 1994. Ten years later, additional funding for DNA labs was approved by President George W. Bush. In 2015, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police began testing all rape kits in addition to a backlog.
There were no sex crimes in Edwards’ past, but his DNA was matched and he became a suspect after tests were conducted using federal grant money.
This federal grant money has funded 1,185 rape kit tests and added 817 profiles to the national database. This is only the second such case this police department has prosecuted using this information, but additional investigations have been enabled in dozens more due to genetic matches found in the system.
*Photo credit Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office