Last Modified: Monday, April 22, 2013 8:38 PM
Local law enforcement officials believe they have solved a two-decade-old rape case.
At a news conference Monday, Lake Charles Police Chief Don Dixon said DNA evidence from a separate rape conviction linked Darwin Hutchinson, 45, to the 1992 crime, in which two women were raped.
Hutchinson is currently serving a life sentence at Angola State Penitentiary for raping a woman in 1999.
He pleaded not guilty to the new rape charges at a Monday morning arraignment in 14th Judicial District Court. He is to go to trial Oct. 15 on two counts of aggravated rape.
Dixon said Hutchinson hid in the back seat of the women’s car while they were at a local establishment.
When they were on the road, he jumped up with a knife and told the driver to drive to a remote location east of Lake Charles, where he raped both of them, Dixon said.
He then had them drive him back to Lake Charles, where they dropped him off at the corner of Ryan and Chavanne streets, Dixon said. He took their driver’s licenses and told them to tell no one or he would pay them a visit.
Though the women went directly to the hospital, the case went cold until 2011 when one of the women’s mothers called the department to ask if there had been any movement in the case, the police chief said.
“Captain (Denise) Hughes then did a very thorough search and found the sexual assault kits,” Dixon said.
In December 2011, the sexual assault kits from both women were submitted to the Southwest Louisiana Crime Lab, which located a DNA match with Hutchinson, Dixon said.
A current DNA sample was taken from Hutchinson and again matched up, he said.
“We would never have made it this far in this case without the Combined DNA Index System, otherwise known as CODIS,” said Leanne Suchanek, with the crime lab. “If Mr. Hutchinson had not been arrested at the time he was, he would not have had a profile in this system.”
CODIS, a nationwide database, was opened in 1999, she said.
“Cases this old are hit and miss as far as what we can pick up with DNA,” she said. “We were very lucky in this case that there was ample DNA to get a complete profile for a match.
“We’re very happy to bring closure to this victim. This is why we do what we do.”
The alleged victim, who gave her name only as Wendy, was in attendance at the news conference.
“I reported it 21 years ago and never imagined in my wildest dreams that they would call me in April and say, ‘We got him,’ ” said Wendy, urging other rape victims to always report crimes. “The biggest message I want rape survivors, victims to know is to never give up hope,” she said. “There are resources. For many years, I went to rape crisis here in Lake Charles and Lafayette.”
Also urging reporting, Dixon said that half of the rapes that happen each year in the U.S. go unreported.
“A lot of times because of fear, the unknown, reaction of the parents, embarrassment, shame, these rapes are not reported,” he said. “I’m here to tell you, every sexual assault in this country should be reported. I’m here to tell you, if that predator out there is not reported, he’ll have other victims.”
Dixon, who said 54 rapes were reported in Lake Charles in 2012, urged rape victims to go directly to a hospital without showering or washing clothes or sheets.
“I know it’s a vile and dirty thing,” he said, but doing so preserves evidence.
Dixon said that other rape kits from the 1990s are being crosschecked with Hutchinson’s DNA.
Hutchinson was convicted in March 2000 of raping a woman at her home in November 1999.
According to reports at the time, the woman was on the phone with her boyfriend when she heard a soft knock at the door. Thinking Hutchinson was her landlord, she opened the door.
The boyfriend heard her yell, “Oh my God, there’s someone at my door,” before the phone disconnected.
The boyfriend, who was in New York, dialed 911, then the LCPD.
Hutchinson took her upstairs and raped her.
When police arrived, the half-dressed woman ran out of the house, followed moments later by Hutchinson.
Richard Harrell, who was on duty that night, said Monday that as Hutchinson ran from the house he was tackled by police and his pockets emptied.
“It was like a rape kit for a suspect,” Harrell said. “When he hit the ground, his gun slid out, his ski mask hit the floor, a roll of duct tape hit the floor, some gloves hit the floor, everything that he would use in his crimes was there.”
Hutchinson claimed he met the woman at a convenience store and the sex was consensual.