Washington (AFP) – In a race against time, US federal prosecutors have taken the unusual step of indicting the DNA profile of a man suspected of carrying out a string of rapes in the Washington area more than a decade ago.
The US Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia announced the charges Tuesday against an unidentified serial rapist referred to only as “John Doe.”
Known as the “DC-area Hotel Rapist,” he is linked by his DNA to six sexual assaults in the Washington area between 1998 and 2006.
The man is a suspect in at least eight other incidents and was indicted by a grand jury for two rapes which took place in the US capital in May 2003.
Most of his victims were housekeepers who were assaulted while they were cleaning hotel rooms.
Jessie Liu, US attorney for the District of Columbia, said prosecutors secured the indictment for the 2003 attacks before the statute of limitations could expire.
“DC currently has a 15-year statute of limitations for first-degree sexual abuse,” Liu told a news conference attended by FBI agents and Washington’s police chief.
“But DC law allows us to indict an unknown offender under the pseudonym of John Doe when his identity has been established with reasonable certainty by his DNA profile,” she said.
“A John Doe indictment like this one… will allow us to prosecute the assailant when the case is finally solved,” she said.
“This means the offender will not escape justice due to the passage of time.”
Liu said it was the first time the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia had secured a “John Doe” indictment based on a DNA profile.
Police also released a composite sketch of the suspect — an African-American man who would now be in his 30s or 40s — and offered a $45,000 reward for information leading to his arrest.
The sketch was produced not from eyewitnesses, the FBI said, but from DNA left behind by the suspect.
DNA technology has figured prominently in several recent high-profile US criminal cases.
California authorities announced the arrest in April of a notorious serial rapist and murderer known as the “Golden State Killer” who was caught 40 years after his crimes by investigators who matched DNA left at crime scenes to a genealogy database.