DNA law used in other states could have prevented Kirkland rape


This summer the United States Supreme Court will rule on a Maryland case that could have implications in Washington State. 

The case centers on whether it's a violation of the 4th amendment against illegal searches and seizures to take a sample of someone's DNA before they are convicted of a crime. 

In Washington State, a person must first be convicted before DNA is taken. But 26 states allow this practice after someone's been arrested for a serious crime. 

After a brazen and brutal rape last fall of a 79-year-old woman in Kirkland, neighbors were terrified. 

Some didn't want to venture outside, worried for their own safety. 

But within weeks, police nabbed the suspected rapist. 

At the time of the arrest, Kirkland police told KIRO 7 they got a DNA match with 26-year-old Moses Kelly, who is still behind bars today. 

The quick turnaround in that Kirkland rape case was only possible because Kelly was once arrested in California, and his DNA entered into a national database. 

California is one of those 26 states. 

KIRO 7 talked with three Tacoma women who will be watching especially closely for the Supreme Court's ruling. 

Laura Pelatt, Charisa Nicholas and Georgia Cuddeback were PLU students rooming together in 2005 when a gunman broke into their place in the middle of the night. 

He tied up Nicholas and Cuddeback and forced them to watch him rape Pelatt. He was there for two hours. 

Their interview with KIRO 7 morning anchor and reporter Michelle Millman was first time they had ever sat down together for an interview about that night. 

 During the interview Cuddeback told KIRO 7 that, "after a certain point, after seeing some of the stuff I saw, I just kind of shut down." 

At one point Nicholas said she questioned whether she'd live through the night. 

Throughout the ordeal, the women prayed. Rape victim Pelatt told KIRO 7 the strength that comes through all three of the women is "because of this deep relationship we have with something that is completely beyond us." 

The women are using that strength to fight for "DNA upon arrest" legislation in Olympia. Cuddeback goes on to say, "that night we didn't commit a crime but our fingerprints were still taken. I see DNA as a chemical fingerprint. That's really all it is."

Police eventually caught Anthony Dias, who was arrested for a felony months before the night he raped and tortured the three friends. 

 But while free on bail, Dias raped seven more times. 

  If Dias' DNA had been collected during the felony arrest months prior it would've been "in the system" - and like Moses Kelly, he may have been taken off the streets much sooner. 

KIRO 7 talked with state senator Jeannie Darneille, a Democrat from Tacoma who describes herself as a former "card carrying member of the ACLU." 

Senator Darneille even killed "DNA upon arrest" legislation two times because she worried it could violate 4th Amendment rights against illegal search and seizure. 

She's also heard critics argue the process violates the body -- so KIRO 7 wanted to know what it felt like. 

We visited the state patrol crime lab in Seattle where reporter Michelle Millman's DNA was taken with what's called a "cheek swab." 

It's the same way arrestees' DNA would be taken.  The sample is then transferred to "treated" paper and put on file.

   If the U.S. Supreme Court rules a Maryland "DNA upon arrest" case is constitutional Senator Darneille promises to introduce similar legislation in Washington State. Why the turnaround? The Anthony Dias case. 

  Senator Darneille believes technology has already altered our privacy and told KIRO 7, "that horse is out of the barn and so let's use technology in a way that can reduce crime." 

The three Tacoma women told KIRO 7 it's a justice they will keep fighting for. Pelatt told KIRO, "I'm still alive. I can share a voice now with the potential bill passing in legislation which is amazing to me." 

During oral arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court, Justice Alito said this is "perhaps the most important criminal procedure case that this court has heard in decades."