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DNA evidence helps solve cold case rape investigation: Queens DA

QNS file photo

A Manhattan cab driver has been charged in the 1996 alleged rape of a Queens woman.

Danny Stewart, 58, was indicted by a grand jury and arraigned in Queens Supreme Court for allegedly picking up the victim at her Jamaica workplace before allegedly sexually assaulting her in his car after displaying what appeared to be a gun, according to Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz.

Stewart, of West 91st St. in Manhattan, was arraigned May 27 in Queens Supreme Court before Justice Ushir Pandit-Durant on a one-count indictment charging his with rape in the first degree.

According to the charges, on Sept. 15, 1996, at approximately 4 a.m., the then-23-year-old victim was on her way home after completing back-to-back shifts at two restaurants. She flagged down a livery cab in the vicinity of Parsons and Archer Avenues. As the vehicle approached her residence, she attempted to exit the car, but Stewart allegedly refused to let her out. Instead, he drove to a dark parking lot nearby, allegedly displayed what appeared to be a firearm, choked the woman and then raped her, according to charges.

After the assault the defendant allowed her to exit the vehicle, at which time she walked home and then went to the hospital. At the hospital a sexual assault evidence kit was collected but it was not immediately tested for DNA for the simple fact that no DNA databank existed at the time, according to Katz.

In 2000, the New York state criminal DNA databank system was launched, and NYC was then able to test every rape kit in its possession, including the victim’s, and a male DNA profile was produced. In the fall of 2020, Stewart was swabbed for his DNA in New York state. The NYS DNA databank generated a match to the victim’s rape kit, which then alerted the NYPD and the Queens DA’s office. The matter was presented to a Queens grand jury, which ultimately convicted the defendant.

“The break in this 25-year-old cold case, the oldest sexual assault case ever prosecuted in Queens County, came from a DNA match that had been previously unattainable,”Katz said. “The victim in this case was just attempting to go home after work, but unfortunately met up with this alleged predator, who at long last faces prosecution for this crime. Justice is not always immediate, but a victim’s suffering deserves closure,”

Justice Pandit-Durant ordered Stewart to return to court June 15. If convicted, he faces 12 1/2 to 25 years in prison.

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