At least seven sexual assaults in Dallas have now been connected to one man, Joseph Beaty. Although the first known assault occurred in 2009, it is only now, eight years later, that Beaty is finally being prosecuted for his crimes. Had all rape kits collected in these assaults been swiftly tested by authorities, crimes could have been prevented and Beaty could have been held accountable.
Beaty, a Dallas-area resident, often targeted vulnerable women, including sex workers. In July 2009, Beaty targeted a woman who engaged in sex work in Dallas. He drove her to a secluded area and then raped her at knifepoint. A year later, he attacked the same woman. She recognized him after entering the car, but was unable to escape.
Beaty raped three more women in 2009. Each of these women underwent invasive forensic evidence examinations and reported their assaults to the authorities. Their kits sat untested for years. According to Dallas Police Major Jeff Cotner, the kits weren’t initially tested because "the victims had stopped working with the police." Had the kits been analyzed in 2009, all four would have been linked to Beaty, whose genetic profile was first entered into the national DNA database in 1996, when he was convicted of robbery and assault.
Without these DNA hits, no pattern of criminal behavior was established.
Four years later, in 2013, a woman reported to authorities that she had been raped by a man after he picked her up, drove her behind a warehouse, and held her at knifepoint. This time, the evidence was tested and the results were entered into the DNA database. The DNA in the rape kit matched Beaty, representing the first time he was linked to a sexual assault through DNA testing. He was arrested, but a grand jury did not indict him.
Beaty went on to open a halfway house in 2014. One of his clients was a recovering alcoholic who “felt safe with him.” When they were alone, Beaty brought tequila to his recovering client, and told her to “go ahead and have some drinks,” and then pressured her to smoke marijuana.
The woman passed out and was raped. She did not have a rape kit collected, but she did report the crime. In this same month, Beaty assaulted another sex worker, but claimed it was consensual. This was the seventh allegation of rape, but Beaty had only been connected through DNA once, in his 2013 case.
In 2014, the Dallas Police Department received state funds to test old rape kits. By testing these kits, police finally linked Beaty’s DNA to the four untested rape kits collected in 2009.
With this new evidence, Beaty was arrested and charged with aggravated sexual assault in two of the four cases, and later charged for the 2014 rape of his halfway house client. Beaty initially awaited trial in jail, but was released in January 2017 in advance of trial. His freedom was short-lived. A few days later, a warrant was issued for his arrest after Beaty attempted to tamper with his electronic monitor and left his house, violating provisions of his house arrest.
Beaty, a serial rapist who targeted vulnerable women, escaped accountability for eight years. Had all collected evidence been tested swiftly, his patterns could have been detected and disrupted sooner. The Dallas area could have been a safer place for all residents. The trauma his victims experienced could have been prevented.
Public awareness is growing that many rapists are serial offenders. In March 2016, Case Western Reserve University analyzed serial vs. one-time offenders in Ohio and found that more than half of these sexual assault cases were connected to serial offenders. Like Beaty, they often target vulnerable victims such as recovering addicts and sex workers. They do so because they know these victims are less likely to be taken seriously by law enforcement. Thorough investigations must be conducted for all cases, including when working with vulnerable populations.
DNA is one of the best tools to find and apprehend serial rapists, but for this to happen, all rape kits must be tested quickly. Joyful Heart supports the swift testing of all rape kits connected to a reported crime to bring justice and healing to survivors, accountability to dangerous offenders and increased safety to communities.
-By Lily Rocha, Joyful Heart Foundation Policy & Advocacy Manager, January 23, 2017
END THE BACKLOG is an initiative 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.