Man indicted in Richmond Hill rapes of ‘97: DA

By Sarina Trangle

Prosecutors combing through the state DNA bank linked an incarcerated man to two rapes committed more than 16 years ago in Richmond Hill, the Queens district attorney’s office said this week.

DA Richard Brown said the DNA Prosecutions Unit has been reviewing all unsolved sexual assaults since 1996 — the date at which the statute of limitation prevents prosecution — and found a match between DNA collected from the two crime scenes and Johnny Dupree, 55.

The government collected a sample of Dupree’s DNA after he pleaded guilty to burglary in 2000.

“This case underscores the crucial importance of DNA evidence, which is irrefutable proof of guilt or innocence,” Brown said in a statement, noting that the DNA Prosecutions Unit was able to find a DNA match by retesting evidence from a rape kit and clothing using more modern techniques.

Dupree, who is serving 16 years to life, pleaded not guilty last Friday to two counts of first-degree rape and two counts of first-degree sodomy handed up by a grand jury in December. Queens Supreme Court Justice Richard L. Butcher ordered him held without bail.

Michael Siff, Dupree’s lawyer, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Prosecutors said Dupree walked through an unlocked basement apartment on 129th Street in Richmond Hill, where he awoke a 23-year-old woman sleeping beside her three children July 11, 1997.

Dupree held a knife up to her throat and demanded cash, according to the DA. After the woman handed over $20, Dupree sodomized and raped her before running off, according to prosecutors.

The DA said Dupree struck again Nov. 9, 1997. He broke into a 130th Street apartment in Richmond Hill, where he flashed a knife and raped a 24-year-old woman, prosecutors said.

Both victims were taken to Jamaica Hospital, where rape kits were prepared, the DA said. Years later, Assistant District Attorney Eric C. Rosenbaum, chief of the DNA Prosecutions Unit, Detective Investigator Julia Collins-Jollon and Cold Case Analyst Deena Zeplowitz began re-examining evidence from the kits.

The DA’s office used money from a federal grant to start the cold case initiative two years ago. Since its inception, prosecutors retesting old DNA samples and rape kits and identifying new evidence have led to 15 indictments for 17 crimes.

If convicted, Dupree faces up to 25 years in prison. He is scheduled to return to court April 7.

Reach reporter Sarina Trangle at 718-260-4546 or by e-mail at strangle@cnglocal.com.

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