Cold Case Convictions: Tennessee

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 Tennessee.

Hendersonville

A suspect in a 1985 rape and kidnapping case has finally been brought to justice in Hendersonville, Tennessee. On October 23, 2014, Lane Walter Edwards pled guilty and was sentenced to 40 years in prison. Edwards was already serving a life sentence for the murder of a homeless man in Nashville in 2011.

In 1985, Edwards abducted a twelve-year-old girl from her home and took her to another location, where he raped her. Though the police had another suspect at the time, they did not have enough evidence to extradite him from Nevada, so the case remained unsolved.

It was not until March 2014 that Detective Sgt. Jim Vaughn submitted the victim’s rape kit to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation for testing. Testing of the rape kit led to a DNA match to Edwards. In June, an additional DNA sample taken from Edwards confirmed the results. Edwards was then indicted in Sumner County for one count of aggravated kidnapping and one count of aggravated rape. He pleaded guilty to both charges and was sentenced to 20 years on each count. Hendersonville Police Chief Mickey Miller vowed to use the latest advances in DNA technology to help solve cold cases when he became chief in late 2010.

Memphis

In Memphis, police have solved a cold case after testing a 14-year-old rape kit. Bridges Randle, a former Memphis police officer, was indicted on aggravated rape charges in a case from 2000, in which he attacked a woman at gunpoint in her apartment. Police finally identified Randle when the survivor’s backlogged rape kit was tested earlier this year. “We’ve been working very hard to get through this backlog and to make sure all of these kits get tested and get the results we have today,” commented District Attorney Amy Weirich.

Randle, who was a police officer with the Memphis Police Department (MPD) at the time, attacked the victim after responding to a domestic violence call at her home. He later returned to the home, saying he had additional questions and assaulted the victim.

Randle was also accused of another rape committed in 2001. Similar to the first attack, Randle responded to assist a woman who had called in a domestic disturbance; after his colleagues left, Randle offered to drive the victim to a safe house, but instead took her to an apartment complex and attacked her.

The 2001 case led to two investigations because Randle was a police officer, one by Internal Affairs and one by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations. Although Randle’s DNA matched to the victim’s rape kit, he received just one year of probation and a one-year suspended sentence. He subsequently left MPD and moved to Atlanta, where using a different name, he worked for The Boys & Girls Clubs of Atlanta until 2014. Randle is now awaiting a hearing.

These cases are powerful proof of the value of testing all rape kits to ensure justice for survivors and accountability for serial offenders.  

- By Sophia Schrager and Vivian Long, November 21st, 2014

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.

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