When DNA matches came back on two cold case rapes in Tacoma, police were not surprised to find both accused rapists were in prison for previous sexual assaults.
Last month, detectives interviewed Andre Taylor and Ronald Burke at Coyote Ridge Correctional Center in Connell, where both men are serving their sentences.
Taylor and Burke both denied involvement in the cases, even when confronted with the DNA evidence.
Detectives Lindsey Wade and Brad Graham weren’t deterred. They turned the cases over to the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office, which filed criminal charges against the two men.
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“These cases are another example of the importance of cold case investigation,” Wade said Friday.
Sexual assault cases in which the victim doesn’t know the attacker can be hard to solve. In hopes of finding DNA evidence to submit for testing, Tacoma detectives — fueled by a $225,000 grant — have reviewed 877 sexual assault cases that have grown cold.
The grant, awarded by the National Institute of Justice, includes $60,000 in DNA work for cold case homicides and sexual assaults.
Detectives have identified 34 sexual assault cases and submitted more than 200 pieces of evidence. Thirteen suspect profiles have been developed and entered into a database that can match DNA profiles. Nine of the 13 suspects have been identified.
Police have closed six of the sexual assault cases and are investigating the remaining three, among others.
In the recent cases, Burke, 54, is charged with second-degree rape in connection with a July 3, 2009, rape of a woman in Wright Park.
Taylor, 40, is charged with second-degree rape and first-degree robbery in connection with a Nov. 19, 2003, rape of a woman as she walked home on Yakima Avenue after visiting her daughter.
Neither man has been arraigned.
Prosecutors also are expected to charge Taylor with a second 2003 rape. Details of that attack were not immediately available.
In the case he was charged in this week, prosecutors allege he followed the victim into an alley, grabbed her from behind and tried to choke her. He raped her and stole her jewelry before fleeing, according to charging papers.
By the time his DNA was linked to the assault, Taylor was serving time for a February 2012 assault on a woman he’d followed for several blocks, run over and then tried to carry to his truck.
Taylor has several prior convictions, including third-degree rape, attempted kidnapping with sexual motivation, assault with sexual motivation and failure to register as a sex offender.
Prosecutors allege Burke approached a drunken woman in Wright Park as she smoked a cigarette near the restroom. When she told him she didn’t want to talk, he allegedly pulled her to the ground and sexually assaulted her.
She walked to Tacoma General Hospital and reported the attack.
When detectives visited Burke in September, he denied involvement in the rape but acknowledged he used to hang out in the park with his girlfriend.
Wade said she notified both victims about the arrests in their cases.
Each victim in the charged cases was “extremely grateful that her case was not forgotten,” Wade said.