A young woman may finally see justice nearly a decade after being brutally raped by strangers.
The Anchorage police department was pleased to announce the discovery of evidence that led to the arrest of two men they believe were involved in the rape of a young woman in November of 2003. 31-year-old Orlin Sutliff and 29-year-old Antwon Archibale were arrested and charged with Sexual assault in the First Degree for their part in the incident, which the victim told police involved at least seven men.
The unnamed female told police she was waiting for a ride from her sister after spending an evening at Chilkoot Charlie's when she was approached by a man she didn't know. After a short conversation with the man, she agreed to let him drive her home. Instead of taking her home, he drove her to an East Anchorage apartment, where he and the other men involved assaulted her. After the assault, the victim escaped, only to be forced into a vehicle and dropped off at a shopping center near the corner of Boniface and Debarr.
Police say her quick action in contacting police following the assault was instrumental in later finding at least two of the suspects in her case.
"It is very important to report sexual assault immediately to police," said APD spokeswoman Jennifer Castro in a release. "9 years after [she] reported to APD that she had been sexually assaulted, Anchorage Police were able to resume an investigation due to a DNA hit from evidence taken from the victim, which has now, 11 years later, resulted in two arrests of suspects involved in the crime."
Castro reports that the victim came forward and underwent a rape kit within a few hours of the assault, which the original investigator, Det. Ken McCoy (now Lt.), submitted to the crime lab for analysis. Years later, another crime committed by one of the men involved led to the collection of his DNA, which the Combined DNA Identification System confirmed as a match with the sample collected from the victim.
A press conference with Police Chief Mark Mew, Det. Brett Sarber, and Lt. McCoy revealed more on the advances in the use of DNA to solve crimes, including this one.
"[Rape is] an unfortunate circumstance for us and it can be devastating to the victims, so when we get a hit that connects to a case and we can work it conclusion it's a great feeling for us," said Lt. McCoy. "What feels the best for us is being able to call the victim of a crime and let them now all those many years have passed we are still being able to make a case for you and that's one of the best feelings in the world."
“She was extremely surprised to get a phone call from me eight and a half years after the incident telling her we had a lead in the case,” said Sarber of the victim.
The DNA that broke open the case belonged to Sutliff, who was arrested for a different crime when his DNA was collected. In recent years, federal law has expanded on the subject of DNA collection, evolving from only including those convicted of murder and sexual assault to a Supreme Court ruling allowing police to swab the mouths of suspects during an arrest, regardless of the arresting charges.
“Slowly they gotten more accustomed to DNA and they've broadened what we could collect DNA on that and because of that we were able to get hits like we were able to today,” said Chief Mews. “It hasn't been very many years we've been able to do this kind of thing.”
Several interviews were conducted by police following the news from CoDIS. After more evidence was collected, police were able to build a prosecutable case against Sutliff and Archibale.
“This case exemplifies the importance of early reporting of sexual assault so that evidence can be recovered from the victim, and the diligence of the police department’s Special Victims Unit to aggressively follow up on all leads on all cases, no matter how old or cold the cases may be,” said Castro. “The case also shows the importance of DNA testing and the exactness of individual type-profiling, and the maintenance of a DNA database of convicted criminals.”
Other persons of interest in this case are being investigated by police, but will not be identified unless an arrest is made.
KTUU's Mallory Peebles contributed to this story.