At around 4 a.m. on July 11, 1997, a man with a knife entered an unlocked apartment in Richmond Hills, Queens and raped a 23-year-old woman. In the same neighborhood, four months later, at 1 a.m. on November 9, a man with a knife broke into another apartment and raped a 24-year-old woman. For 16 years the two crimes have gone unsolved.
Then, on Friday, an indictment. The Queens District Attorney’s Office had matched DNA from the crime scenes to a DNA profile in the state’s database. There was no need for an arrest. The suspect, 55-year-old Johnny Dupree, has been locked up for burglary since 2000.
New DNA technology found a link that the system previously couldn’t detect.
The Queens D.A.’s Office retested the DNA evidence from the rape kits and clothing as part of its cold case initiative, a federally funded program it began two years ago.
Dupree is the second person indicted based on evidence found through the initiative. The office has also filed 13 “John Doe” indictments against unidentified suspects with DNA profiles tied to unsolved crimes.
Prosecutors charged Dupree with two counts of first-degree rape and two counts of first-degree sodomy. He is currently serving a prison sentence of 16 years to life as a “persistent violent felony offender.” He returns to court for a hearing in April.
“This case underscores the crucial importance of DNA evidence, which is irrefutable proof of guilt or innocence,” Queens D.A. Richard Brown said in a statement.
This is not exactly true. While DNA evidence is more dependable than any other sort of evidence, it is not perfect: a recent FBI audit discovered 166 DNA profiles (including some from New York City) that contained possible errors. To be sure, that’s 166 out of around 13 million total profiles in the national database.