Editorials

Hard work by lawmakers, police pays off

Charles Jeffrey Davis has been charged with first-degree rape in connection with an attack on a 16-year-old girl at the Lacey Transit Center.

What makes this case unique is the circumstances that brought the 46-year-old transient to the bar of justice.

The girl reported that she was dragged into the bathroom at the Golf Club Road transit center by a group of men on Sept. 23, 2001. While others held her down, one man sexually assaulted her, she told Lacey police.

While law enforcement officers did their best, it was action in the halls of the state Legislature the following spring that made a monumental difference in this case. It was passage of Substitute House Bill 2468 allowing law enforcement officials to take DNA samples from every felon. Passage of that bill led to Davis’ arrest eight years after the reported rape.

The history:

The investigation of the midday rape stymied Lacey police officers. There were no witnesses. There were no security cameras at the transit center at the time and the man was a stranger to the victim.

When she was taken to Providence St. Peter Hospital, the victim had injuries consistent with a sexual assault. Forensic evidence was collected from the girl during a sexual-assault exam, but it did not match any of the DNA profiles in the Washington State Patrol’s Combined DNA Index System or the National DNA Index System.

In January 2002, without any viable leads, officers reluctantly closed their investigation.

By an interesting twist of fate, that was the same month when Rep. Mark Miloscia, D-Federal Way, introduced SHB 2468.

State law at the time allowed police officers to take DNA samples from criminals convicted of a sex crime or those convicted of a violent offense. The State Patrol had about 3,000 DNA samples in the database.

Miloscia wanted to expand the database and proposed a change in state law to allow law enforcement officers to collect DNA samples from all felons and those convicted of stalking, harassment or communicating with a minor for immoral purposes. He said the DNA database would quickly grow to 27,000 profiles.

Prosecutors, police chiefs and sheriffs, crime victim advocates, the State Patrol and Gov. Gary Locke quickly threw their support behind Rep. Miloscia’s legislation.

Proponents argued that passage of the bill would:

 • Solve crimes

 • Prevent crimes

 • Exonerate the innocent

 • Save time in criminal investigations

While no one testified in opposition to the House bill, there were concerns over whether the Legislature was going too far and whether the DNA samples might be misused.

In the final version of the bill, lawmakers stipulated that the samples could not be used to predict genetic diseases or to test for predisposition to illnesses.

With that prohibition, the measure passed the House and Senate on unanimous votes and was signed into law by Gov. Locke on April 1, 2002. The law went into effect on July 1, 2002.

It was later challenged in court, but was upheld by the State Supreme Court in 2007.

The following year, Davis was arrested and convicted on a narcotics charge. In accordance with the DNA law, a sample was taken and submitted to the State Patrol’s crime lab. When Davis’ DNA profile was compared against profiles from unsolved cases, law enforcement officials found a match to the DNA collected in the Lacey rape case.

Lacey police got a warrant for Davis’ arrest this spring and the state Department of Corrections’ fugitive-apprehension team recently located Davis, 46, at a treatment center in Tacoma. He was arrested and booked into the Thurston County Jail. In his initial court appearance, he pleaded not guilty. A trial date will be set. He is presumed innocent until proved guilty.

Reflecting on the path the first-degree rape case has traveled and the actions of the 2002 Legislature, Lacey detective Bev Reinhold said, “The case would never have been solved if not for that.”

When lawmakers passed SHB 2468 in March 2002, they said it would lead to safer communities. It turns out they were right.

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