A crime fighting tool, under used in the District for many years, is now regularly identifying violent rapists who've been preying on women throughout the city.
That tool is DNA. Better testing, better training and a lab that is finally seeing results.
In just the last six months three men have been convicted or arrested for rapes that took place years ago.
In the mid morning hours of February 4, 2008, a young woman, new to D.C., was raped and beaten in a surprise attack inside her Capitol Hill apartment.
"He beat her so viciously...knocked off her glasses, beat her in the head," said assistant U.S. Attorney Kelly Higashi.
James Blackmon had used a ruse to get inside. Telling the victim he needed a pen to jot down a number.
"She wasn't able to see, think or breath, it was beyond terrifying, she was afraid for her life," Higashi.
A sex assault nurse collected evidence but until a match was made in the national DNA databank there were no suspects and few leads--leaving the victim in distress.
"Especially because of something he said, um, during it, that there's this on-going fear that I might see him again," said the victim, who spoke to FOX 5 on the condition we not identify her.
That fear turned to relief six months later when an FBI computer made what's called a "cold hit."
Connecting the DNA profile of James Blackmon with the evidence collected after the rape.
Blackmon was a convicted sex offender and his prosecution came at a time when the U.S. Attorneys office began to see a series of DNA matches.
But those matches wouldn't have happened if the D.C. Police hadn't sent evidence from hundreds of rape cases to its DNA lab for testing. Evidence that had been sitting on shelves, inside the warehouse, untouched for years.
A backlog that began to grow after the 9-11 attacks overwhelmed the FBI with evidence from around the world.
Without its own lab, the evidence collected in what are called "sex kits" was left unexamined.
"The longer those kits sit, the longer the offenders are not entered into the database," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Mike Ambrosino, "the greater the possibility people are placed in danger who don't need to be."
As the backlog became public politicians and others took notice.
"We're not doing anywhere near all the DNA testing that we can do to solve crimes..." said D.C. City council member Kathy Patterson in a 2003 interview.
And during a congressional hearing on the issue in 2006, D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton was astounded by what she heard.
"That means if you commit a sex crime in the District of Columbia you probably don't have to worry about it," said Norton.
The City Council did what it could, budgeting money to hire the district's own DNA lab technicians.
But it was slow to get off the ground.
In his job as a cold case detective, Jim Trainum, saw the problem first hand.
"It never seemed to be a priority until after the council got involved and the media began to push it and then suddenly, my god we need to do something about it."
But the DNA challenge in the District wasn't done yet.
As important as DNA evidence has become over the years, it's worthless unless samples from convicted felons are collected and entered into the DNA databank as soon as possible.
A process that had been done as felons left prison, rather than when they arrived.
A decision that created a backlog. That too has changed.
"Those people are now coming into the system and we are now seeing cold hits as a result of the backlog reductions," said Mike Ambrosino. "Every time a report is issued by the lab I review it and over about the last eight months I think they have gone up exponentially."
In just the last six months, DNA matches have lead to the arrests for rape of Cardell Torney, Michael Davies and Shepardson Blair.
Three convicted felons whose DNA was already in the system.
If not for DNA, prosecutors say the men would likely still be on the street.
Davies pled guilty, Blair was convicted and Torney is awaiting trial.
That's certainly good news for prosecutors who are paid to get predators off the street.
"When you get the call, when you find out there's a CODIS hit for a really serious case that we've been working on your elated, it's the big break in the case." said Higashi
But for victims, the emotions can be somewhat different.
"It was incredibly relieving, it was freeing, because there wasn't that fear anymore," said the victim raped by James Blackmon. "I'm sure that I would not be like I am now, that I would have to deal with a lot more fear, that I would have to deal with a whole other host of things if he were not found."
James Blackmon is now 50 years old. His sentence comes to an end in 2043.
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