The untested rape kit backlog denies justice for sexual assault survivors and communities. For every untested kit, there is a perpetrator who is not held accountable for their crime, free to re-offend and commit other crimes. Keith Asberry Jr., 33, of Antioch, California is one of those offenders. Asberry sexually assaulted at least five women over nine years, eventually murdering one of his victims. These crimes could have been prevented with the timely testing of a single rape kit. According to prosecutors, Asberry kidnapped and raped two young women in 2008, a 15-year-old (victim 2) and a 19-year-old (victim 3). The rape kits collected from these victims sat untested for years. Had these kits been tested swiftly, they would have confirmed the offender as Asberry, connecting the DNA from the kits to Asberry’s existing DNA profile in the national database from a 2005 felony gun conviction. However, the link wasn’t established until six years later when the teens’ kits were among the 1,900 kits sent for testing following an inventory of backlogged rape kits by Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley. In the first 319 kits tested, there were 124 DNA matches to 55 suspects, including Asberry.
A history of violence
The two teens weren’t Asberry’s first victims. In 2005, Asberry raped a 20-year-old woman (victim 1). The rape kit was tested but there was no DNA match, likely because of rudimentary technology. After the 2008 rapes of victims 2 and 3, a warrant was issued for Asberry’s arrest. Before the arrest, he attempted to assault a 46-year-old woman in February 2015 (victim 4). Asberry fought with the victim, leaving behind blood before fleeing. The blood was analyzed quickly and matched Asberry’s DNA. A few weeks later, Asberry burglarized a home, raping and murdering the woman who lived there, a 37-year-old student at the University of California at San Francisco School of Dentistry (victim 5).
In June 2015, Asberry was finally arrested when he was pulled over for a traffic stop. He is currently being held without bail in Alameda County.
This Was Preventable
A rape kit is evidence of a crime, and when tested, it reveals offenders who might have escaped other crimes. Asberry is a dangerous serial offender. He burglarized homes, threatened women at gunpoint, robbed them, assaulted them, and eventually murdered one of them. But, the rape kits from the 2008 assaults were not tested until six years later, delaying his arrest for years. Victim 4 recently lamented that her attack and the murder of the dental student (victim 5) were “preventable.”
Test Rape Kits Expeditiously
Survivors waiting years, even decades, for justice is unacceptable. All tools available to law enforcement should be used on behalf of the victim and to prevent future crimes. The criminal justice system’s response to sexual assault must change. When rape kits are tested swiftly, the Asberrys in our communities are captured, signaling to survivors that offenders will be held accountable.
2005: Asberry is convicted of a gun felony and his DNA uploaded to the national database, CODIS.
2005: Asberry rapes a 20-year-old-woman (victim 1). No DNA match.
2008: Asberry rapes two young women (victims 2 and 3), ages 15 and 19. Rape kits are collected but the evidence is not submitted to a lab for DNA testing.
2014: The rape kit from victim 2 is tested after untested kits found in an inventory conducted by Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley are sent for testing.
February 2015: Asberry attacks a 46-year-old victim (victim 4). Blood from the crime scene is tested and matches with Asberry’s DNA.
March 2015: Asberry rapes and kills a dental student in her home (victim 5).
June 2015: Asberry is arrested when pulled over at a traffic stop.
2017: DNA from victim 1’s case is retested with newer technology. The DNA matches Asberry’s DNA.