Fox Files: Cold Cases Haunt Both Criminals and Victims
SLMPD partners with Y.W.C.A. advocates to help victims while closing cases.
ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) – St. Louis City police officers are solving more cold rape cases than ever. But justice comes with pain as victims’ wounds re-open. Investigator Chris Hayes reveals recent breakthroughs and the unique partnership built to close cases and help survivors.
It is with great courage that rape survivors pick up their shattered lives. As years pass with unsolved cases, many survivors give up on possible criminal prosecution. But DNA is giving new hope — hope that comes with an emotional price.
St. Louis City Assistant Prosecutor Mary Pat Benninger said, ‘She was so young. She 16 was when this happened.’
Survivor Christina said, ‘Three days after my 16th birthday party – every dream, every aspiration, every hope I had at 16 years old – that all faded away in one night.’
Benninger added, ‘About 4 a.m., the door opened. Men entered, their faces were covered. The first one that entered had a gun.’
Christina continued, ‘Everything after the first thing he said kind of faded into background noise, but just telling me not to make a sound, that making one noise would mean the end of my life.’
Benninger continued, “When she began to cry, they said ‘Crying`s not going to do you any good now.'”
Then everyone seemed to forget, except Christina. She explained, ‘I spent every moment after that looking over my shoulder and having a constant question about whether or not I had walked right past one of my assailants.’
But the rapists cannot escape CODIS — Combined DNA Indexing System.
Assistant Prosecutor Benninger said, ‘Back in 1996, that DNA from the seminal fluid was entered into CODIS. So when their DNA hit CODUS, it showed up as a match.’
Eleven years later, that match landed on the desk of Investigator Mark Chambers, the same officer who first investigated Christina’s rape. Chambers told us, ‘I`ve got two cases right here that I just got a couple months ago. One`s 19 years ago and the other one`s 23 years ago, that I just got notified yesterday. These doors have got to be re-opened again and we`ve got to go to these victims and let them know hey it`s been a long time but we think we have someone.’
Chambers showed Christina a photo line-up. In those pictures were two of the masked men who invaded her home. Now unmasked, she did not recognize them.
Christina explained her relief, ‘So for me seeing their faces, I cried because I was glad I didn`t know who they were that it was, you know, they were just strangers for me.’
Enter S.A.R.T. – Sexual Assault Response Teams – a partnership of St. Louis Metropolitan Police Officers and Y.W.C.A. advocates who respond.
Chambers said this about the unique partnership, ‘I`ve never been raped. I have no idea what it`s like and I don`t want to find out. So that`s why it`s so nice to have those advocates present.’
Y.W.C.A.’s Cindy Malott said the victims, ‘feel like everyone around them is telling them you should be so excited, you should be so happy your perpetrator`s been caught. But for a lot of victims, there`s this equal part of them saying `oh my gosh, I`ve spent 10- 20 years physiologically trying to forget that this happened and now you`re knocking on my door.`’
Advocates gave Christina the strength to meet her attackers without their masks. While she didn`t recognize faces, she remembered the voice. She said, ‘I never wanted to hear it again, but when I did hear it I knew it at that moment – the first time I heard him speak in Court I knew that`s exactly who he was.’
Brothers Antonio and Calvin Williams are both now serving more than 30 years each for the rape.
Christina feels only partially freed, but she hopes her fight will give others courage. She said, ‘There are people like me that exist every single day. There are women who will never come forward because they don`t feel there`s a chance for them to get any type of justice.’