Rape is a hideous crime — one a victim might never fully recover from or even talk about — which might be part of the reason it is one of the most underreported crimes. Improved technology makes it easier than ever before to use DNA samples to assist in the prosecution of rapists. Kansas’ 10-year statute of limitations for rape and aggravated sodomy, however, prevented some victims from assisting with the prosecution because they waited too long to tell their story to law enforcement officers, thus enabling rapists to continue with their attacks unabated.

Under those terms, even a person who admitted to raping someone 10 years before could get away without being charged because of the statute of limitations.

That changed this week when Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback signed into law House Bill 2252, which removed the arbitrary 10-year reporting period and made it possible to report such sexually violent acts indefinitely. Such changes made possible by the legislation — co-sponsored by state Rep. Blaine Finch, R-Ottawa — are long overdue and should help with the identification of perpetrators for cold reported cases, as well as those reported years after they occurred. Many state-penal systems across the country collect DNA samples from every inmate, which greatly expands the forensic database of inmates and parolees who might have committed other crimes, but remained under the radar of law enforcement.

 In Ohio — a state that requires a monthly inventory of inmates in need of DNA collection — a 37-year old man, Larry McGowan, reportedly was linked to the rapes of five women, as well as the murder of one of them. Locally, truck driver Ralph Corey was convicted in October of sexually assaulting a then-16-year-old Walmart Supercenter cashier on the night of Feb. 19, 2000, as she prepared to leave the employee parking lot at 2101 S. Princeton St., Ottawa. Corey was convicted of two counts of aggravated sexual assault, one count of aggravated kidnapping, one count of attempted rape and one count of making a criminal threat in connection with the incident, according to Herald archives. The case had gone cold until DNA retrieved from the crime scene matched Corey’s DNA in a national database system as he was about to be released from an Arizona penitentiary on counterfeiting charges Nov. 8, 2010.

That success counters national averages, which reflect 25 percent of rape cases not resulting in an arrest.

The now-29-year-old woman who was victimized by Corey can rest easier knowing the man who violated her is back in prison for his crimes and can’t hurt her again. Other rape and sexual assault victims still await the identification and apprehension of the individual that violated them. Now, with the removal of the statute of limitations, whether it takes 10 years or more, those perpetrators may be held accountable for their actions.

It’s good to know these criminals are more likely to face the consequences of their actions.

 

— Jeanny Sharp,

editor and publisher