Originally in The Winston-Salem Journal

April 24, 2019

N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein praised the Winston-Salem Police Department on Wednesday for submitting 346 old sexual-assault kits to the State Crime Lab for review and testing.

“Testing these kits sends a clear message to rapists. No matter how long ago you committed your crime, we will not stop tracking you down and convicting you,” Stein said in a statement.

He said sexual-assault survivors should know that law-enforcement officers consider rape and other sexual offenses as serious crime.

“We will never stop working to achieve justice,” Stein said.

Police Chief Catrina Thompson and police Lt. Eric Montgomery, who supervises detectives who investigate sexual-assault cases, couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday.

Investigators typically see more than 10% of tested kits result in a DNA match, Stein said.

“I look forward to hearing about the cold cases Winston-Salem Police Department is able to reopen and solve as a result of this evidence,” he said.

In 2017, Winston-Salem police reported to the State Crime Lab that the department had 1,339 untested kits, according to the N.C. Attorney General’s office. According to a statewide inventory, there were about 15,000 untested sexual-assault kits in law-enforcement custody statewide that hadn’t been submitted to the State Crime Lab.

Authorities said the backlog existed for several reasons, including the fact that DNA testing wasn’t available in criminal cases until the early 1990s, the high costs of testing and victims sometimes recanting the accusations against alleged assailants.

The attorney general’s office and the State Crime Lab have worked with local law-enforcement officers, including Winston-Salem police, to have the kits turned in so they can be reviewed, outsourced, tested and uploaded into the federal database for sexual-assault DNA, Stein said.

He pointed to an arrest in February connected to a 29-year-old rape case that demonstrates the importance of testing older sexual-assault kits.

Winston-Salem police charged Horace Stokes Jr., 58, on Feb. 12 with first-degree rape and first-degree burglary in connection with a sexual assault in the 1600 block of Lincoln Avenue on Jan. 9, 1990. Stokes is accused of sexually assaulting a woman inside the home, a court record shows.

A DNA match to Stokes was made possible through a federal grant that helped Winston-Salem police send 283 sexual-assault kits for further testing from private laboratories, the Winston-Salem Journal reported on Feb. 15. Those kits come from cases dating back to 1988. The kit from the 1990 case was sent to the State Crime Lab in December 2017.

In October 2018, the State Crime Lab notified Winston-Salem police investigators that it got a DNA match to Stokes from a DNA profile from the woman. The match was made after the DNA profile was uploaded to the FBI’s CODIS, shorthand for the Combined DNA Information System.

Winston-Salem police obtained a search warrant in December 2018 to get a DNA sample from Stokes, who was being held in the Forsyth County jail on unrelated drug and weapons charges.

Stokes was being held Wednesday in the jail with bond set at $1,017,500, according to the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office.