SEATTLE — A man suspected of committing two sexual assaults has been arrested after new evidence linked him to the crimes, according to Seattle police.
The alleged sexual assaults occurred in 2014 and 2015.
A woman told police she was sexually assaulted by a man in a stairway near the University Street Metro tunnel in April 2014. A year later, in May 2015, another woman said she was sexually assaulted by a man she had met while walking downtown.
Detectives investigated both cases but weren't able to identify a suspect at the time. Police retrieved DNA evidence from both cases and sent it to the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab.
Those results, which were not returned until 2017, confirmed both cases matched. But it still did not identify a suspect.
Seattle police say they received a break in the case last December when a suspect was arrested for a felony crime in Pierce County, and his DNA was entered into a national database.
The WSP Crime Lab was able to match his DNA to the two unsolved sexual assault cases and notified Seattle police.
Police arrested the 31-year-old man and this week and booked him into the King County Jail on two counts of investigation of rape.
“The key issue for us was that the victim’s had the courage to get the [rape] kits done at the time of their assaults, and then the follow up that was able to be done with the help of the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab,” said Seattle Police Investigations Chief Deanna Nollette.
The Seattle Police Department in 2015 declared it would submit every rape kit in their possession for testing. This was prior to Gov. Inslee signing a law requiring police departments to submit rape kit evidence for testing within 30 days of collection.
The 2014 sexual assault case was part of a statewide rape kit testing backlog, according to Nollette. Which is in part why it took two years for the crime lab to return the results.
Last year, officials reported that 32% of rape kits had been tested four years after Washington state began an effort to cut down on untested rape kits.
Nollette said DNA evidence is crucial in any crime, but especially in sexual assault cases.
“It shows the importance of women coming forward and reporting the sexual assault to law enforcement and then having the sexual assault kit done. That evidence is irrefutable proof that that suspect had contact with that victim," Nollette said.