DNA Ties Convicted Burglar To R.H. Attacks
Genetic evidence has linked a convicted burglar to two previously unsolved rape cases in Richmond Hill that occurred more than 16 years ago, prosecutors announced on Monday, Jan. 27.
Law enforcement sources said Johnny Dupree-currently serving a minimum 16-year prison term for a 2000 burglary-was arraigned in Queens Criminal Court last Friday, Jan. 24, on an indictment charging him with two counts of first-degree rape and two counts of first-degree sodomy for the pair of sexual assaults that occurred in the neighborhood in July and November of 1997, respectively.
Though the cases remained unsolved for 16 years, investigators caught a break last year in retesting rape kit samples and clothing recovered from the victims. The genetic material provided to police matched the DNA of Dupree, who had submitted a genetic sample to the state’s Criminal Justice DNA Databank upon pleading guilty to the burglary charge in April 2000.
According to Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown, the match was found through the use of sophisticated techniques that were not available to law enforcement at the time of the incidents.
The discovery was made as part of the DA’s DNA Investigations Bureau’s ongoing systematic review of all unsolved sexual assaults that occurred in Queens as far back as 1996, as dictated by the statute of limitations under law.
“This case underscores the crucial importance of DNA evidence, which is irrefutable proof of guilt or innocence,” Brown added.
Law enforcement sources said the first rape occurred at 4 a.m. on July 11, 1997 inside a basement apartment on 129th Street.
Reportedly, the suspect was able to get inside the location through an unlocked door and confronted a then- 23-year-old woman who had been asleep inside the apartment with her three children.
Police said the woman woke up to find the perpetrator crouched down in the apartment. Just after she awoke, it was noted, the suspect grabbed the victim, put a knife to her neck and demanded money.
After giving him $20, the suspect reportedly sodomized and raped her before fleeing.
Police said the second sexual assault took place at 1 a.m. on Nov. 9, 1997 at an apartment on 130th Street.
Authorities said the perpetrator broke into the apartment, confronted a then-24-year-old woman at knifepoint and raped her.
Both victims were treated for their injuries-and had rape kits collected-at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center following the attacks.
Many of the rape kits compiled over a decade ago did not yield DNA profiles upon initial testing, Brown stated. Advances in investigative technology have enabled further testing of the samples provided to help recover each attacker’s DNA and enable law enforcement to begin prosecution.
Since launching the cold case initiative, the district attorney noted, his office has garnered 13 “John Doe” indictments in 17 separate unsolved sexual assaults in Queens. Under each John Doe indictment, charges are brought against the unidentified, unique DNA profile recovered through testing in the hope of eventually prosecuting the person who is found to match that profile.
At last Friday’s arraignment, Queens Supreme Court Justice Richard L. Buchter ordered Dupree to return to court on Apr. 7. If convicted of the charges, the suspect faces an additional 25 years behind bars.
The cold case investigation was conducted by the DA’s DNA Prosecutions Unit, including Assistant District Attorney Eric C. Rosenbaum, bureau chief, Detective Investigator Julia Collins-Jollon and Cold Case Analyst Deena Zeplowitz; and Detectives Bart Alexandre and James Ropenus of the NYPD Queens Special Victims Squad, as supervised by Sgt. Doug Biscardi.
The case is being prosecuted by Senior Assistant District Attorney Jared R. Rosenblatt of the DA’s Special Victims Bureau, under the supervision of Assistant District Attorneys Rosenbaum and Marjory D. Fisher, chief of the Special Victims Bureau.