The Macon Telegraph (Georgia)
BYLINE: PHILLIP RAMATI;
Macon police have closed an eight-year-old rape cold case with the arrest of a Columbus, Ohio, man who has been charged with raping a 13-year-old girl in November 2002.
Macon police Capt. Jimmy Barbee said he issued a warrant for the arrest of Shawn Ronnie Clark, who turns 31 this month, who was picked up in Columbus on a separate aggravated stalking charge. Clark was taken to Macon, where he is locked up in the Bibb County jail on charges of rape and probation violation.
Barbee said Clark submitted a DNA sample as part of his plea deal in Ohio's capital. That sample was entered into the Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS, where it matched a DNA sample taken as part of the sexual assault kit performed in 2002. "We got the CODIS match in May, but we had to locate the victim," Barbee said. "It was a cold case, and we had to interview (the victim) again. We got her statement in June, and I got a warrant signed on July 7."
Eventually, Columbus-area law enforcement officials tracked down Clark and arrested him, and then delivered him to Macon, where Barbee interrogated him Friday afternoon.
During the questioning, Barbee said, Clark told him the sex was consensual. He gave officials a new DNA sample.
"CODIS is a good investigating lead," Barbee said. "The match comes from the computer, which compares samples on file. We have to get another DNA sample, which he consented to on Friday."
That sample will go to the GBI crime lab, where it will be compared to the DNA sample taken from the original sexual assault kit. Barbee said the process could take about three months.
Barbee said the victim, now 21, was emotional during the interview process, having to relive the events all over again.
"She was frightened," he said. "We explained to her that this came about through DNA. She remembered it all just like it happened yesterday."
Barbee said that when he speaks to police recruits, he tells them that rape victims go through the normal grief process based on what happened to them.
"You get to the point where you can cope with it, and then CODIS spits out a name and it all comes back to you," he said. "She didn't show any signs of relief (that Clark was in jail). She was just scared because all this came back up again."
In the original 2002 police report, investigators wrote that the victim had been assaulted in her home on Vinson Robinson Drive. Clark allegedly entered through her bedroom window and struck her on the right side of the face before covering up her head with a jacket. Barbee said the victim never saw her attacker's face.
The report said that at the time, the attacker told the victim, "This is your brother's fault," but Barbee said he doesn't know the context for that statement.
Barbee said there's no statute of limitations in the rape case because the police have DNA evidence in this instance. Because it's a major crime and Clark would be considered a flight risk, he doesn't expect bail to be set.
While some of Clark's statements matched what the victim said, Barbee said his other statements didn't match what was seen at the crime scene.
Clark's legal troubles may not end with this case. Barbee said CODIS produced a second match from a rape and burglary that took place in Columbus in 1998. Barbee said he doesn't know what course of action the Columbus, Ohio, district attorney's office will take with the 1998 case.
Barbee said he's hopeful that CODIS will clear up some other cold cases. He currently has samples from three murders at the crime lab from the 76 cold-case homicides that have taken place in Macon during the past 30 years.
He said that DNA takes time to analyze and that there are cases waiting to be analyzed from every county in Georgia.
"This is not like (the TV show) 'CSI,' " he said. "You don't get the DNA results before the next commercial break."
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