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DNA points out rape suspect

The state crime lab has identified a suspect in an alarming 2001 Oak Harbor break-in and rape case through DNA evidence, but police aren’t rushing to arrest him.

The suspect, 30-year-old Kenny Mikell of Oak Harbor, is already in prison.

The case comes at a time when DNA evidence and databanks are making headlines across the nation. The governor of Illinois, for example, recently granted clemency to all the state’s deathrow inmates after DNA evidence proved several of the men slated to die were innocent.

Closer to home, Washington state’s DNA database lead to the arrest of the suspected Green River Killer. Seattle police recently named a suspect in punk-rock singer Mia Zapata’s murder and rape through DNA evidence.

“DNA evidence is getting innocent people out of jail and putting guilty people in jail,” Oak Harbor Police Sgt. Jerry Baker said. “It’s a system that’s working.”

Baker explained that detectives didn’t have a suspect in the 2001 rape until DNA evidence made the link. Mikell was convicted last spring of first-degree robbery and second-degree assault after he robbed Market Place Foods at knifepoint and slashed a customer who tried to stop him. He was sentenced to seven years in prison.

Under the state’s DNA law, a person convicted of a felony or certain gross misdemeanor laws must submit a DNA sample for the state database. Baker said that Mikell’s sample, which he submitted after the robbery conviction, matched a DNA sample recovered from the rape victim. A second blood test confirmed the match, Baker said.

On the night of Oct. 10, 2001, a woman was sleeping in her bedroom, with her daughter in bed beside her, in the apartment building behind the Elks Club. A strange man came into the dark bedroom and attacked her, knocking the kindergarten-aged girl onto the floor. He pulled the woman’s T-shirt up over her face, then raped and assaulted her.

Baker said detectives, at the time, had very little to go on since the victim didn’t see the rapist. It turns out, however, that Mikell was living nearby the location.

The rape came at a time of a couple of similar cases, still unsolved, in which a stranger went into residents’ homes and assaulted them. In August of 2001, a man posed as an agent with the Navy criminal investigative service to fake his way into a woman’s Forest Meadow apartment. He handcuffed the woman and sexually assaulted her.

About a month later, a husband and wife at an Oak Harbor Street home were awaken by an intruder in their bedroom. The man struggled with the intruder, who locked him in a closet and then attacked his pregnant wife. The man broke out of the closet and the intruder ran away. Afterwards, the man realized he had been stabbed with an unknown object.

Baker said investigators have no evidence to link Mikell in these cases.

Baker said Mikell could face his “third strike” if convicted of a rape or burglary charge. Under the state’s persistent offender law, a person convicted of three serious felonies automatically receives life in prison without parole. Mikell’s criminal record, according to Baker, includes convictions for felony assault, felony domestic assault and several felony drug convictions.

You can reach News-Times reporter Jessie Stensland at jstensland@whidbeynewstimes.com or call 675-6611.

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