Investigations: Investigating Rape Crimes, Part 3 of 5

The first two articles of this series on investigating rape discussed legal definitions, the importance of care in handling the initial contact with a rape victim, identification and collection of rape evidence, the medical examination and the various uses of DNA evidence. In this third installment, I introduce a fictional sexual-assault case based on an actual incident to demonstrate the practical application of previously discussed theory.

The Assault

Marie Delaney is a 32-year-old branch manager of a nationally known bank in Hartford, Conn. The bank is situated in the foyer on the first floor of a multi-level business complex in a heavily industrialized downtown area. Elevators connect the various business offices to a massive five-level parking garage.

On May 27, at approximately 0645 hrs, Marie Delaney parked her car on the third level of the garage, walked across the parking lot and took the public elevator down to the first floor to open the bank for business at 0900 hrs. The bank closes at 1800 hrs; at approximately 1845 hrs, Delaney took the same elevator up to the third floor of the garage. Unable to immediately locate her keys, she placed her purse on the hood of her car to search for them. While in this position, she was struck so violently on the back of her head that she fell forward onto the hood of the car, suffering a severe contusion to her forehead over her right eye.

Her assailant pulled her legs out from under her and dragged her backward some 14 feet to the steps of a stairwell. He then dragged her nine cement steps down the stairwell into a small, partially enclosed landing. Displaying a large knife (the back of which he had used to strike Delaney), the assailant forced Delaney to fellate him, and subsequently sodomized her. In the process, he repeatedly stuck her with the rear of the knife, fracturing her jaw and damaging her right eye so severely it later had to be surgically removed. Her assailant took her purse, told her he knew where she lived and threatened to kill her if she contacted the police.

Some time later, Delaney managed to drag herself up the stairwell. An insurance employee who worked in the building found her lying next to her car. He called 911, and the police and an ambulance were dispatched to the scene.

The Initial Response

Unfortunately, the insurance employee who found Delaney called the police with a cell phone that provided only partial reception, and the dispatcher interpreted the call as a sick/cared for. Officer James Jenkins was immediately dispatched (at 1918 hrs), but he was across town. When he did arrive in the downtown area, he went to a parking garage directly across the street from the bank's garage. Meanwhile, the ambulance arrived at the correct location and transported Delaney to St. Francis Hospital's critical-care unit.

Eventually, Jenkins arrived at the crime scene. He spoke with the insurance employee, who speculated Delaney must have been mugged. The insurance employee reported he had attempted to provide first aid by taking off his shirt and applying direct pressure to Delaney's facial area. He said she was partially unconscious and did not speak to him. Jenkins had less than three months on the job. After noting only a small amount of blood near where the insurance employee reported finding Delaney, the officer left the scene to find out what he could at the hospital.

The ambulance radioed ahead to the emergency room, reporting the severe injury to Delaney's eye. Even with her fractured jaw, Delaney managed to tell the medical response technician (MRT) she had been raped. The paramedics immediately reported the rape to the trauma team that greeted the ambulance at the entrance to the hospital. They whisked Delaney away to the hospital's critical care unit, whose staff was fortunately well-trained in handling rape cases.

When Jenkins arrived at the hospital, he learned of Delaney's critical condition and rape from the MRT who assisted her in the ambulance. Jenkins returned to the parking garage intending to protect the crime scene, using his cruiser's radio en route to call his supervisor, Sergeant Fleming. Because he used his radio rather than a cell phone or landline, every news media with a police scanner marshaled its forces to arrive at the parking garage. Upon arriving on scene, Fleming called for more personnel and sealed off all garage entrances and exits. He used his cell phone to call the detective division. Detectives Anthony Capriati (the Cisco Kid) and Paul Amaral responded to the scene, arriving at 2037 hrs, one hour and 19 minutes after the insurance employee called 911.

The Detectives Arrive

The Cisco Kid had been a detective for more than 35 years. His partner, Amaral, had six years on the job, but had been promoted to detective only two weeks before the crime. It was the Kid's case. Amaral's job was to watch and listen.

With the parking garage now sealed off, Capriati felt somewhat confident the crime scene was well protected. He spoke with Jenkins, who was receiving a severe, loud tongue lashing from Fleming. Jenkins pointed out where the insurance employee had found Delaney, and showed the detective the small amount of blood on the garage's cement floor along with the insurance employee's wadded-up white shirt. Capriati took out his flashlight, and his eyes moved from the initially observed blood spot to a trail of blood droplets. He followed the intermediate blood-splatter trail and scuff marks to the steps of the stairwell and then down into the partially enclosed landing. What he saw there made him back off and make a call on his cell phone to the home of Detective Shirley Bascomb.

The Evidence Technician

Bascomb was the department's premier evidence technician. Technically, she did not work for the detective bureau, but for the Evidentiary Services (ES) division, which was run out of the patrol division. Capriati had her phone number on speed dial.

Bascomb's husband, Paul, answered. "Paul, it's Cisco. I need Shirley."

Capriati could hear children's laughter in the background and knew he was interrupting a family event. Bascomb came on the line "I'm in the middle of my son's birthday party here, Cisco. So, whatever it is, call one of the other techs."

"I need you here, Shirley. I've got a woman with a fractured jaw who's probably going to lose an eye. She was raped in a parking-garage stairwell."

There was a long pause. "I'm not on the clock, Cisco. Call somebody else."

Capriati sighed. "I've got blood, a blood-splatter trail, a possible sneaker impression. Maybe some human hair and tissue. You owe me one and I need you here."

Such a long time went by Capriati thought they'd been disconnected. "Where is it?" Bascomb asked.

Capriati knew he had her. "The parking garage, third floor, across from the civic center. Follow the lights on the cop cars."

Capriati made two other quick phone calls and snapped his cell phone shut. Amaral had heard parts of his conversations. "What do we do now?" he asked.

Capriati looked at him. He liked this kid. "I wait for Shirley. You get that rookie cop away from Fleming before Fleming kills him and have him start a crime-scene log. Have a couple other guys start taking down the license plate numbers of every car in the garage, in the garage across the street and in a four-block radius. Then go over to the hospital and find out what you can. Detective Lucas will meet you there."

Amaral raised his eyebrows. "Lucas is another crime scene tech. He's on duty now, right?"

Capriati nodded.

"But you called Shirley at home and went around Lucas."

Capriati nodded again.

"There's going to be hell to pay," Amaral said.

"Not really," Capriati said. "I cleared it with the boss and he's on the way in."

"Jetmore's coming in?"

"He always does. Relax. He'll sign the overtime cards and buy coffee."

Bascomb never wanted to be a cop. She wanted to be a crime scene investigator without the police part. After graduating from high school, she received a bachelor's and master's degree in forensic science from the University of New Haven, one of the country's most prestigious schools in forensics. She was now working on her doctorate. Bascomb soon learned there were few jobs in forensics in Connecticut, and with no way to practice her trade, joined one of the few departments in the state that offered positions dealing with forensic science. That was nine years ago. She still had to pay her dues, and did her time wearing the badge in patrol, clawed, politicked and tested her way to detective, and finally made it to the ES bureau.

Bascomb arrived on scene in the ES van, which was equipped with everything on earth needed to process a crime scene. "I spoke with Lucas at the hospital, and he's not a happy camper," she said to Capriati.

"So what else is new? He was born unhappy," Capriati replied.

Bascomb removed a large, portable light capable of turning night into bright sunlight. "Let's do a walkthrough and see what we got," she said.

Bascomb noted the blood on the cement floor where the insurance employee found the victim and the wadded-up shirt used to provide first aid, and followed the sporadic blood droplets to the stairwell. She shined the light back and to the right and saw the scuff marks on the ground leading to a 2005 Honda Civic. "Is that the victim's car?" she asked Capriati.

"Yep," he replied. "The plate comes back to her."

Bascomb walked over to the car and noted the disturbance to the hood. She shined the light back along the trail of scuff marks. "Looks like this is the place the guy confronted her and dragged her in that direction."

Bascomb followed the trail to the stairwell and went down the nine steps to the landing. She noted the scuff marks on the steps and observed more blood in the landing area. She observed a partial sneaker print in the blood and dirt. The stairwell landing led to another flight of stairs going both up and down, and Bascomb saw faint blood splatters at intervals going down the stairs. "Looks like she got a piece of the bastard," she said.

She and Capriati followed the blood-splatter trail down the steps to the first-floor landing where they petered out at a door leading outside of the garage. Almost simultaneously, they noted a discarded paper soda cup, half-full, with a straw sticking out of the lid. They looked in all directions. They were on the street now, and the rapist could have gone anywhere.

"This is going to take me a long time, Cisco. I have to photograph and videotape all of this, print the car and the stairwell railings, take samples of all of this blood, do a sketch and God knows what else. I need more help here." She was excited.

"I'll give you a hand," Capriati said.

Bascomb laughed. "You're our best detective, but this isn't what you do. I need another crime tech."

Capriati took out his cell phone and after a couple of minutes said, "I talked to the boss and he's arranging for another person from ES to come in on OT."

"Okay," Bascomb said. "I'll start photographing the scene while I wait for the other tech to show up."

This case will be continued in the next issue of Law Officer.


Questions for analysis: How well has this case been handled?

The next few columns will provide answers as the investigation unfolds.

1. Was the crime scene properly protected? How will the fact that Jenkins left the crime scene affect the case? Will evidence subsequently recovered be allowed in court?

2. An ambulance took the victim to the hospital before the police arrived. Her clothing and person contain vital evidence. Has the chain of custody been broken?

3. What can the blood stains, the blood-splatter pattern and trail, the palm prints and marks on the hood of the victim's car, the scuff marks on the garage floor and step, the partial sneaker prints, the blood trail leading to the first floor and the discarded soda cup tell us? Can any of this link the rapist to the victim and/or to the crime scene?

4. How important is crime-scene photography? Video recording? A crime-scene sketch?

5. What can analysis of rape-kit evidence taken by the doctor from the victim tell us? Can sperm or blood lead to DNA analysis and identify age, sex or race of the rapist?


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