Game Changer with DNA and Forensic Genetic Genealogy

I want to share information about a program that I was involved in while I was employed at the Dallas Police Department. It started almost by accident because victims/survivors of sexual assaults called wanting the status of their case from 20 to 30 years ago.

Many television crime shows started showing how cases were being solved with DNA. Sometime before 2000, the FBI was using DNA as a crime-solving tool and so were police departments for homicide cases but was rarely used in Sexual Assaults.

Sometime in 2004, Sexual assault survivors called the Dallas Police Department asking about their old cases. The women said they were assaulted, had reported to the police, went to the hospital for a sexual assault exam, then heard once from a detective but never heard the outcome of the investigation. These cases were not solved and they said they felt like their case had been closed.

I was the Victim Services Coordinator in the Crimes Against Persons Division at the Dallas Police Department. I was an advocate for "complainants'' as they are labeled on police reports. My job was to provide information and assistance to victims/survivors of violent crimes, and crisis counseling or short-term counseling which included the victims of Sexual Assault. Upon receiving calls from "cold case" victims (meaning old cases that were not solved), I consulted with the Sexual Assault Supervisor (Sgt. P. Welsh) who spoke with the "complainant/victim/survivor". He listened and assured them he would look into their old reports. Since the cases were back in the '80s and '90s, he had to get help from the records division to go into archives to pull the records and print on microfiche to get the old reports.

As they were looking through the old records, they noted a rash of serial rapists that were prevalent in the '80s and '90s. There were similar "MO's" (method of operations), so some were found to be connected to several women. At any rate, there were laws in Texas that only allowed for prosecution if the offender was located within 5 years. If not found the case could not be prosecuted. After Sgt. Welsh found the reports, he looked up the information and learned that Dallas County had kept the rape kits in the lab. Most police departments had destroyed the evidence as it could not be prosecuted. This was a double-edged sword. If you can't prosecute, then why keep the rape kits after the statute of limitations ran out. As a result, this was a good thing for several women who wanted/needed to know who assaulted them. Of course, they wanted justice for the crime committed against them, but at that time it was not possible.

After a while, we received several calls from women and Sgt. Welsh found their reports and asked for funds to have the rape kits analyzed for DNA. Since they could not be prosecuted at that time, it was a low priority. A cold case rape kit to be analyzed was put on the bottom of newer cases that could be investigated and filed for prosecution. In the meantime, as he 1 received calls and found the reports, he would take me along with him to contact the victim. (Always best to contact in person rather than a phone call). I would be there to serve as support and provide information and referrals to agencies that offered counseling. Some of the women said they had been to counseling and did not feel it would help as it was so long ago. Some had not been to counseling and were afraid to open "those old wounds". Others just were not sure.

One thing I did know was that the ladies did not need to be given information and left alone with no support. I spoke with some ladies and offered to start a support group for "cold case sexual assault survivors" I had done my counseling internship with the local rape crisis center so I had a little experience working with sexual assault victims. I had a co-facilitator to help with the group.

We started the group and called it the SEACAP (Sexual Assault Cold Case Program). We met monthly at the police department on a Thursday evening. As time went on, we changed the day to Saturday mornings as it was hard to go in the evening when it was dark and ladies came from many directions and cities.

This group met for about five years. This was a group of women who were so supportive of each other and shared a lifetime of experiences that only they could relate to. There was always some unfinished business about the assault as well as a multitude of lifetime reactions.

They told stories of going to the store and always being suspicious of people/men who might be walking past them as they were loading their cars. One lady told a story of her pulling out a bat from her van as she was loading her groceries when a man was walking by, she was startled and "She hollered at him that she did not know him and he best not get too close." She was really afraid and as she told her story, we listened to her, then some ladies from the group cried and could relate and then we laughed with her. They seemed to express such trust and support for each other. There were times information was shared that was cathartic and at other times disturbing but always with a sense of respect and care for each other.

Another lady told her story of having to live with burglar bars and a loaded gun by her bedside, counseling, medication for depression and still, 30 years later she had this crime always on her mind.

This group of ladies appeared to be more secure and empowered but they were not satisfied with the "status quo" of the old law. We discussed if there was something we could do and took a day trip to Austin to speak with people who could help us to find a way to change the law. We met with Advocates from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice - Victim Services and with The Texas Association Against Sexual Assault. They gave us some positive support but no definite answers. Later we were able to meet with our Local District Attorney who met with several of the ladies, our Division Assistant Chief, Lieutenant, and Sergeant. We discussed some possibilities and the ball started rolling.

The Texas Legislature was in session and our discussions continued. Finally, the sergeant came up with an idea of what we could suggest. We spoke with the Legislative coordinators of 2 the police department and the district attorney's office. We needed a Senator and a House Representative to sponsor a bill for us. I had been speaking with a Senators' Assistant who was very supportive. One day, there was a news report on television regarding one of the ladies from our group as they showcased her case. I was on my way to work and had not seen it, but a House Representative's assistant did see it and she contacted the Texas Association of Sexual Assault (TSSNT). When I got in the office that morning I received a call from a TSSNT advocate who informed me the House Representative was interested in our story.

Needless to say, Senator Carona and Rep. Vaught took our story and decided to help by sponsoring our bill. It was getting near the end of the session so we had to move fast. Both the DA and police dept legislative coordinators worked to help get this bill heard in the Criminal Jurisprudence Committees of both the House and Senate.

We had been writing letters to the legislators in the committees explaining our situation and asking for their support. On the day the Senate Criminal Jurisprudence committee met, we were there to testify. They needed the survivors to testify before the committee. It was such an enlightening day for us as well as emotional and difficult. We were a small group of us (maybe 10 or 11 of us), but we seemed to get a lot of attention that day as there was a reporter and cameraman from 20/20). We were one of maybe two groups in the country at that time who was working with cold case sexual assault victims, so we periodically had reporters from across the country hear our story and they met with some of the ladies who were willing to talk.

At any rate, a few weeks later the group went back and met with the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee of the House of Representatives. After both the house and senate had approved our "bill" it had to go to the whole Texas State Legislators to be voted on. This bill at least gave cold case sexual assault survivors some sense of justice was passed.

The bill was to document the identified sexual assault offender who was identified with DNA in the Texas Central Index System. (Before this, the unsolved cold case was just documented in the local police department report since it could not be prosecuted. The case was suspended as there were no other leads. The sexual assault survivor now knew who it was and that was the end.) But with this new law, the offender's information was documented in theTexas state system whereby if this offender was released from prison and was out in the community and committed another crime, a police department agency investigating, could get information about the offender's history. The legislators added a caveat to this law which also allowed the cold case sexual assault survivor to be able to testify in court against "their" offender if he was out in the community and committed a crime and was prosecuted for the new crime. The survivor could testify in the punishment phase of the offender's new crime. This was "at least" something they could do to help them feel like they got some sort of justice.

There were two ladies from our group who did go to court to testify against their offenders who had been released from prison for their prior offenses. They were out in the community and committed another crime for which they were prosecuted and these ladies went to court to 3 testify. Both of those offenders went back to prison. Interestingly, as I recall this was not a joyful, happy type of reaction. It was kinda sad. The survivors had mixed reactions.

By this time our group had pretty much dissipated, but they had a bond that they called "the sisterhood" and we met annually at Christmas for lunch.

The sergeant solved about 100 cold case sexual assault cases. One of the activities that our group did was to write letters to the parole board, against offenders who had been identified with DNA on their cases. This was a way to support the survivor in asking the parole board to deny the offenders' release from prison. As I recall, all the offenders for who we wrote letters to the parole board were always denied. At first, it was at three-year increments, then two, and then the parole board requested letters every year. This was not easy on the survivors as writing the letters triggered many emotions.

None of the offenders could be prosecuted even though DNA had identified them. The offenders were identified because at some point the law had added that all offenders who were incarcerated on felony charges, had to have their DNA put in CODIS ( Combined DNA Indexing System, THAT KEEPS RECORD OF ALL DNA OF OFFENDERS WHICH LAW ENFORCEMENT CAN USE IF THEY ARE INVESTIGATING CASES.) The offenders who we identified from our cases had been prosecuted and convicted for other crimes not related to the cold case sexual assault cases that DPD was investigating. The offenders had been put in prison for lesser crimes which had the same punishment as sexual assault crimes. Most of the offenders were in for burglary of a habitation which was easier to solve than sexual assault but in our cases, they were not identified. The offenders had committed the crimes against our cold case sexual assault survivors in the dark of the night as the survivors were going into their homes or were asleep in their bed when the offender broke in and sexually assaulted them.

There was a lot of political pressure to solve and investigate all cases of sexual assault with the use of DNA. This was somewhat of a problem as it was a lack of money issue. In the past police departments did not work on cases if a report was made, and the victim/survivor/complainant did not cooperate with the investigation. It was feudal to work on a case if the victim did not talk to the detective so he could investigate the case. Many times someone will make a report, then leave with no way to reach them or refuse to cooperate. It might be fear, maybe self-blame, who knows the reasons why someone may not want to follow through. It's a personal decision.

When the laws changed it became national news and people and different groups were working to find the funds for police departments to get all rape kits analyzed. At this time there are still many rape kits being analyzed. And as a result, there have been grants for police and district attorneys to hire dedicated staff and money to work strictly on sexual assault cases. Sgt Welsh and I eventually retired but the work continued.

In 2019, Texas passed a new law that allowed for cold case sexual assault cases to be able to be prosecuted with several rules. One is if the offender was a serial rapist and had 5 4 documented cases. There was one case in particular that needed to be solved. All cases NEED to be solved, but this case was from one of the ladies who had been very active in our SEACAP support group. She came to almost all the meetings that we held in the 5 years that we met. She was always supportive of all the ladies whose cases had been solved. Her name is Carrie Krejci. She has consented to have her name released for this article. She has been interviewed several times through the years as she desperately wanted to have her case solved. She has been listed in articles in The Dallas Morning News. There was no "hit" on her rape kit so we assumed that maybe the offender had never been convicted of a crime, had died, or quit sexually assaulting women. All these ideas were WRONG.

Sgt Welsh retired about seven years ago and I retired four years ago. About a year ago, we got word that an offender had been identified in her case. And that this case had been re-opened as Carrie was relentless and never gave up. She watched a tv show about Forensic Genetic Genealogy. She tracked down a lady who does this for a living in our area. She made calls to the police department and the district attorney's office. I don't know all the details of who did what but this particular case was being looked at by the FBI and they had a Forensic Genetic Genealogist (FGG) working on this case. The case was solved. An interesting fact was how they found his DNA with FGG. This offender happened to have a son in prison for assault of a child. But this was not the clue that identified this offender. The offender was found with descendants of a great great grandparent. The FGG created a family tree built using an open-source free database. The two most popular open-source DNA databases are GEDmatch and Family Tree DNA. Not sure if one or a combo of both were used to build out the family tree in this case, but this information was relayed to us by the Lead Prosecuting Attorney Leighton D'Antoni when we met a few weeks after the court conviction.

The next step was to visit to inform Carrie that her case was solved and that he was going to be arrested and charges filed. BIG difference from the previous cases we had worked on. None of the others had been found, arrested, or prosecuted. Sgt. Welsh and I did not understand this but were informed of the new law passed in 2019.

The DA's office staff were gracious, knowing we had invested a lot of time in the previous years working on these cases and we had a special place in our heart and interest in having the offender found for Carrie. They informed us a little over a year ago that they identified the offender and were planning to arrest him AND, they allowed us to go with the DA's advocate to inform Carrie. I know Carrie very well because of our long history in the group so I was so excited to be invited to go. I called Carrie a few days before to let her know the sergeant was in town and we wanted to stop by to see her. We set the date early in the morning the day the offender was to be arrested and taken into custody so the investigator could question him about the details of 36 years ago. When we showed up at Carrie's house, she saw us but was not sure who the third person was who was with us. Carrie is one of the sweetest most gracious persons and she had prepared a lovely table under a tree with coffee, juice, and pastries for us to visit. When we sat to talk she was a bit apprehensive. She was not sure what was going on and was somewhat confused about the advocate with us. At any rate, We told her the offender was found and had been arrested and would be prosecuted. It was confusing as we never 5 imagined this was a possibility but we explained about the new law. We told her he was at the police department being questioned and that he would be put in jail. To our surprise, he was put in jail with no bond. It had something to do with him being a felon in possession of guns, so the U.S. Attorney had the judge hold him in jail with no bond for over a year before he finally went to court.

A year later a court date was finally set and he agreed to plead guilty to one count of aggravated sexual assault and three counts of aggravated rape for a series of attacks that occurred in Dallas in the 1980s. On the date of court, he changed his mind and court did not happen that day but after some talking from the prosecutor and his attorney, he "came back to his senses" and a court date was set two days later. On that day, his attorney was about an hour late and nowhere to be found, but the judge called him and he stated he was on his way. We waited with anticipation and he showed up. We had to again wait for the offender to sign about 20 pages. When he finished signing, the papers were given to the judge and he was asked if he pled guilty to the crimes and he said yes. The Judge sentenced him to FOUR life sentences. Just like that, it was over. Then Carrie read her impact statement.

A couple of quotes from Carrie that stand out were "In spite of you, I have a good life." and "My wish for you David Thomas Hawkins, is that you take your last breath in prison and that you BURN IN HELL!"

This is one of many sad stories in this world. Something not mentioned is that this offender was a dentist when he started committing these crimes. He admits to sexually assaulting 30 women. He was helped out of a previous prison sentence in 1973 after serving maybe 4 years of a 30-year sentence in Arkansas by some "prominent" people. He was told he could no longer be a resident of Arkansas. He moved to the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. A pastor (brother in law we were told) from a prominent church in Ft. Worth helped him get a job where he excelled and had the opportunity to travel all over Texas and other states. This allowed him to continue his criminal activity of sexually assaulting women. There were 2 or 3 other women identified in Shreveport, Louisiana where his DNA matched those victims. One of those victims we were informed of was a prosecuting attorney.

So sad to say, the "boogie man" can be anyone. Not your stereotypical creepy-looking guy. It can be the guy next door. I share this information for a couple of reasons. And that is to say that this woman's persistence is quite powerful. She never gave up. With the help of many people, her goal of finding the offender that forever changed her life was not only found but after all those years was prosecuted and convicted. He was forever taken off the streets. This was one of the most memorable experiences of my career and life. I am humbled by the courageous and strong women with who I had the privilege of meeting and working with. I want people to be aware that there are more ways than ever to solve these types of crimes that years ago were not an option. So with this, I want to thank Sgt. Welsh and Asst. District Attorney Leighton D'Antoni for pursuing justice to make a safer world but also for helping Carrie to find her peace and justice.

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