Bristol County DA Quinn’s Untested Rape Kit Initiative nets another cold case arrest

·9 min read

NEW BEDFORD — Bristol County District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn's Untested Rape Kit Initiative has resulted in a second cold case rape arrest.

Dylan Ponte, 28, of New Bedford, has been arrested in connection to the cold case rape of a 16-year-old girl in New Bedford in July 2012, according to a press release. The defendant is charged at this time with two counts of rape and two counts of indecent assault and battery on a person over the age of 14.

On the night of July 3, 2012, the victim had been given alcohol, and was drinking with the defendant and others in the area of the Hayden-McFadden School. The victim told police at the time that she blacked out between 1 and 7 a.m. on July 4, and woke up outside her friend's home around 7 a.m. When she woke up outside the house, she had no underwear on, had bruising on multiple areas of her body and was experiencing pain in multiple private areas of her body.

The victim immediately went to the hospital with her friend and New Bedford Police were contacted. While at St. Luke's Hospital in New Bedford, the victim submitted to a rape kit. That kit was one of more than 1,100 from Bristol County alone that was never fully tested by the state lab. However, after Quinn's office became aware of the scope and breadth of the problem with untested rape kits in Bristol County and throughout the state, investigators took action to obtain a federal grant.

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What is the Untested Rape Kit Initiative?

According to a press release, they then began the painstaking process of inventorying and prioritizing all untested rape kits in the county. Quinn’s office is now in the process of getting all 1,148 previously untested Bristol County rape kits fully tested by a private lab under the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) grant obtained by Quinn in 2019.

In May of this year, the rape kit connected to this case was tested and resulted in the recovery of a DNA profile, which in turn resulted in a CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) hit to Dylan Ponte.

The defendant was in the CODIS system due to being arrested multiple times in the summer and fall of 2020 in Marion County, Fla., on domestic assault and battery, and obstruction charges. He was eventually convicted of misdemeanor domestic battery in April 2021. As part of his plea in Florida, he agreed to submit DNA. If this victim's rape kit had been fully tested, this case could have been solved more than a year ago.

The statute of limitations on this case would have expired in July 2027.

This is the second cold case solved through the initiative

This is now the second cold case rape that’s been solved as a result of District Attorney Quinn's Untested Rape Kit Initiative, according to the release.

“I am extremely pleased that our rape kit testing initiative has already resulted in two cold case rapes being solved from more than a decade ago. Both these cases demonstrate the importance of fully testing all sexual assault kits. If we did not obtain the grant to have all these kits fully tested, this case may never have been solved and the statute of limitations could have expired,” Quinn said. “Victims who have been sexually assaulted have gone through a very traumatic experience and have a right to have these kits fully tested, especially when an assailant cannot be identified.”

When informed about the criminal charges and the underlying issues regarding untested rape kits throughout the state, the victim in this case expressed immense gratitude and relief, according to the release. She is fully on board with the prosecution and looks forward to the culmination of this case.

After the official criminal complaint related to this case was filed last Thursday in New Bedford District Court, the defendant was tracked down by members of New Bedford Police and the Massachusetts State Police Violent Fugitives Apprehension Section on Friday in New Bedford. The defendant briefly appeared in court on Friday afternoon, where a district court judge found him to be a danger but set bail at $1,000 cash with conditions. The defendant is due back in New Bedford District Court on Aug. 10.

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Scot Trudeau indicted

The first case of criminal charges related to Quinn's Untested Rape Kit Initiative was announced May 6, 2022. In that case, Scot Trudeau, 47, of Worcester was indicted by a Bristol County Grand Jury on charges of aggravated rape and assault and battery connected to the cold case 2010 rape of a woman in New Bedford.

On March 18, 2010, a 23-year-old woman was walking along Coffin Avenue in the north end of New Bedford when she was violently attacked by two men. She was struck in the head and then dragged to a secluded area, where one of the men (this defendant) raped her while the other one held her down. She could not see or identify them because they were wearing hooded sweatshirts. She gave a description of them to the police and was taken to St Luke’s Hospital for treatment. While at the hospital, the victim submitted to a sex assault evidence collection kit. However, that kit was never fully tested by the state lab and was only discovered thanks to Quinn’s Untested Rape Kit Initiative.

In February of 2022, the rape kit connected to the Trudeau case was tested and resulted in the recovery of a DNA profile, which in turn resulted in a CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) hit to Scot Trudeau, 47, of Worcester. If this victim’s rape kit had been fully tested in 2010, it would have matched to the defendant’s DNA sample provided after his federal conviction in 2015 for child sexual exploitation. If Quinn’s office had not undertaken this initiative and brought this issue to light statewide, the kit would likely never have been fully tested and the case would have remained unsolved, according to the release. The statute of limitations on this case would have expired in March 2025.

The revelation that so many rape kits throughout the state were not being fully tested began shortly after a defendant by the name of John Loflin was convicted in late 2013 for the cold case 2002 murder of Marlene Rose in New Bedford. Loflin had previously been charged with a 1997 New Bedford rape, but the case was eventually dismissed after the alleged victim left the country. The alleged victim in that case submitted to a rape kit. That rape kit was sent up to the state lab three weeks after the rape, but unknown to law enforcement, it had never been fully tested. After Marlene Rose was murdered in 2002, DNA evidence was collected and sent to the state lab for testing. If the 1997 rape kit had been fully tested at the time, the Marlene Rose DNA evidence would have matched to that 1997 case and Loflin would have been arrested in connection to the Marlene Rose homicide. Instead, Loflin was not identified as the murderer of Rose until 2011 when he was arrested in Tennessee on unrelated charges, according to the release. Loflin was compelled by Tennessee law to provide a DNA sample as a result of his criminal charges in that state. Once that DNA sample was uploaded to CODIS, it immediately matched with the 2002 DNA evidence connected to the murder of Marlene Rose. Loflin was then charged here in Bristol County with Marlene Rose’s murder and was eventually convicted and sentenced to life in prison in November of 2013.

SAKI grant approved in 2018

After learning about the 1997 rape case and discovering that the rape kit in that case had never been tested, Quinn’s office began looking into other cold case rapes and attempted to determine whether there were other rape kits that were also not fully tested by the state lab. Quinn poured a number of resources and man hours into this review. After inventorying many rape kits from all 20 of Bristol County’s cities and towns, it began to become clear that there were many rape kits that were not being fully tested. Quinn’s office then researched and applied for the federal SAKI grant. In October of 2018, Quinn’s office was notified that its grant application was approved and that federal grant money would be awarded. In June of 2019, the federal grant money was deposited into the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office account. It was immediately used to hire a retired Massachusetts State Police detective to assist staff members in Quinn’s office with training, inventorying and prioritizing the untested rape kits. Quinn’s office was the first district attorney’s office in the state to undertake this large-scale initiative and access the federal grant program.

After numerous delays due to COVID-19 and other issues with the state lab, the first batches of prioritized untested rape kits were sent to a private lab (Bode Laboratories) for testing in April of 2021. Although the testing got off to a slow start, Quinn’s office has been informed that all 1,148 previously untested rape kits will likely be fully tested by the private lab by the end of this year. According to the release, they’re optimistic that other cold case sexual assaults and other crimes will be solved as a result of this initiative.

“During the investigation of a cold case homicide we discovered that more than 1,100 rape kits in our county had not been fully tested by the state lab. This was totally unacceptable, especially for victims, the public and law enforcement who believed these kits were being fully tested. I immediately dedicated office resources so that every rape kit would now be fully tested to help identify perpetrators who had remained uncharged,” Quinn said. “I am optimistic there are other cases that will be solved as a result of our rape kit initiative. Our office discovered a major problem, took action and devoted an immense amount of resources to it, and is now in the process of solving it.”

This article originally appeared on Standard-Times: DA Quinn’s Untested Rape Kit Initiative nets 2nd cold case rape arrest