This week in our Cold Case Convictions series, where we highlight cases in which the testing of rape kits years later helps bring perpetrators to justice, we turn to Cleveland.
In Cleveland, five cold cases involving two perpetrators have been solved as a result of DNA evidence found in previously untested rape kits. Both Darnell Whitfield and William Echols were apprehended late last year after the rape kit results identified each man to multiple rapes, and they were each sentenced in January 2015.
Darnell Whitfield’s case involved three separate rapes from 1997, 1998, and 2001. The second conviction of 47-year-old William Echols involved evidence collected from two rape and kidnappings, ocurring in 1994 and 1999.
Though all but one of these cases are more than 15-years-old, it was not until 2011, when the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office and Ohio Attorney General’s Office started an initiative to collect and test previously untested rape kits across the state, that these kits were addressed. They were finally tested in 2013, almost 20 years later. Echols was recently convicted and sentenced to 41 years in prison, and Whitfield received a sentence of 24 years.
Ohio has made great progress over the past four years in rape kit testing and reform. These are two of the most recent convictions of 64 total generated from testing in Cuyahoga County alone—home to Cleveland. Across the state, more than 6,250 previously untested rape kits submitted by 149 law enforcement agencies have been tested, yielding 2,369 matches to suspects in the national DNA database.
- By Sophia Schrager and Vivian Long, March 3, 2015
ENDTHEBACKLOG is a program of the Joyful Heart Foundation to shine a light on the backlog of untested rape kits throughout the United States. Our goal is to end this injustice by conducting groundbreaking research identifying the extent of the nation’s backlog and best practices for eliminating it, expanding the national dialogue on rape kit testing through increased public awareness, engaging communities and government agencies and officials and advocating for comprehensive rape kit reform legislation and policies at the local, state and federal levels. We urge you to learn more about the backlog, where it exists and why it matters. We invite you to take action and support efforts to test rape kits. Help us send the message that we must take rape seriously.