City waits on KBI lab for rape evidence

While some people are able to close the book on 2009 and focus their attention on the new year, authorities at the Hillsboro Police Department won?t be doing that just yet.

With five open rape cases, one dating back to December 2008, Hillsboro Police Chief Dan Kinning said his office is committed to following all leads and exhausting all possibilities in examining and testing forensic evidence.

?None of the five cases involve the same person,? Kinning said, ?but in each case the victim knew the assailant.?

Witnesses, in each case, have been interviewed, forensic examinations completed and search warrants, when necessary, carried out. But lab results are still pending.

The primary holdup involves getting results from the Kansas Bureau of Investi?gation, he said.

Hillsboro, along with most towns in Kansas except for larger metropolitan areas, rely on Topeka?s KBI crime lab for analysis of DNA and other evidence collected at the scenes.

?The problem is the KBI crime lab is backlogged by more than 800 cases,? Kinning said.

Even though this is frustrating to local authorities, Kinning said, his office is doing what it can to keep victims safe while waiting for forensic answers.

Open cases

To protect the victims, and because suspects have not been charged in any of these cases, Kinning could only talk about the crimes in general terms.

The following are brief accounts of each investigation.

n The most recent reported rape was Saturday, Jan. 2. The victim was a 16-year-old girl from Marion, who knew the suspect, a 17-year-old Hillsboro male.

Kinning said the girl was with a small gathering of people in a house in the 100 block of North Jefferson in Hillsboro.

?Young adults and juveniles were at the gathering, but there was no drinking,? he said.

When the victim returned to Marion, she called the Marion Police Department, who assisted Hillsboro authorities in the initial investigation. No charges have been filed, pending results of forensic evidence.

n Alcohol is suspected in a reported rape Dec. 6 involving a 20-year-old who came to Hills?boro with a friend to meet a boyfriend.

According to Kinning, the victim first met the suspect, who is from out-of-state, at the friend?s house. The incident was not reported until 48 hours after it happened.

Although police have a suspect, no charges have been filed pending forensic evidence.

n In the early morning hours of Sept. 15, police were called to a house in Hillsboro, where a group of adults were drinking alcohol.

The case involves a 28-year-old victim who told authorities she ?passed out? in the bathroom; when she woke up, she knew something had happened to her.

The victim said she met the assailant at the party. The crime scene was searched and the case is waiting on lab results. No one has been charged.

n A 17-year-old Wichita runaway reported being raped Aug. 13, one week after the incident.

The Wichita Police Depart?ment took the report and called Hillsboro authorities stating the victim had been raped by a 37-year-old man she had met for the first time.

Evidence was collected and sent to the KBI?lab, Kinning said, and following a lineup, the suspect was identified.

?It makes it difficult when someone doesn?t report a crime immediately,? Kinning said. While waiting on lab results, the suspect fled the state. No charges have been filed.

n The oldest open case happened in December 2008 and involved a 25-year-old woman who reported she was raped in the early evening at an apartment building in Hillsboro.

A third party reported the crime two days later, Kinning said, but foreign DNA was found and sent to the lab for analysis.

A suspect was tracked down in Dickinson County, Kinning said. No charges have been filed.

How to stay safe

Even though Kinning said it is unusual to have so many open cases involving rape, he did think it served as an opportunity to remind women how to protect themselves.

In some of the pending cases, the victims were at parties where alcohol was served.

?One good rule to follow is to stay with someone who is a good friend,? Kinning said. ?This is a good way to keep out of harm?s way.?

The KBI lists other ways to protect against sexual assaults or other types of crimes:

n lock car doors and roll up windows before leaving and after entering it.

n have keys in hand when going to the car.

n make arrangements to ride with someone when leaving a party or going anywhere without a car.

n stay alert and notice what is happening around the area.

n raise the car hood in case of car problems, then remain in the locked vehicle until police arrive.

n parking in a place that will be lighted when returning and check for loiterers before leaving the car.

n keep garages well lit and when returning home, keep headlights on until the garage door is opened for additional light.

Providing assistance

The KBI?also offered advice on how someone might be able to prevent a crime from occurring.

For example, if someone suspects she is being followed, authorities suggest she go to the nearest public place (gas station, all-night restaurant) and honk the horn to attract attention.

Should someone try to break-in, use the car horn and make as much noise as possible, including screaming.

Avoid wearing restrictive clothing?including high-heeled shoes and long, tight skirts?to prevent possible escape when walking somewhere alone.

Carry a whistle or other noisemaker. Rapists do not like anything that attracts attention to them.

When carrying a purse, hold it snugly under the arm, making it more difficult for someone to grab.

Be cautious and alert when entering elevators, hallways, stairways and rooms where someone might be lurking.

Kinning also urges people to be observant so that should a crime happen, they will be able to describe a suspect or assailant.

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