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DNA hit keeps rapist behind bars, announces AG Cooper

Release date: 10/1/2004

Greensboro: A convicted felon scheduled for release from prison Thursday will remain behind bars thanks to DNA analysis that linked him to a rape in Greensboro, Attorney General Roy Cooper and Greensboro Police announced today.

DNA analysis of evidence by the State Bureau of Investigation’s Forensic Biology lab identified Phillip Lemont Hairston, 34, as a suspect in a rape that occurred June 1, 2002 in Greensboro. Police allege that Hairston broke into his victim’s home in Greensboro around 4:30 AM and threatened her with a knife before raping her. Cooper commended the Greensboro Police Department for its work on the case.

Greensboro Police submitted evidence collected from the victim to the SBI lab for testing. SBI analysts developed a DNA profile of the suspect and then discovered through a search of the state’s DNA records that it matched Hairston’s DNA. This week, SBI agents served a search warrant on Hairston to confirm the match. Hairston was scheduled to be released from prison on breaking and entering charges on Sept. 30 but is now being held in the Guilford County Jail.

“DNA technology is catching rapists and keeping dangerous criminals off our streets,” said Cooper. “Local police are able to use DNA as a tool to close cases and fight crime in their communities.”

“We are happy to partner with the SBI in this effort and expect the successes to continue,” said Chief David Wray of the Greensboro Police Department, who added that law enforcement, victims and their families all want to increase testing of rape kits.

This latest DNA success in Greensboro comes just months after DNA analysis solved two cold cases submitted by police as part of Cooper’s efforts with the SBI to clear untested rape kits held by local law enforcement agencies. SBI analysts were able to identify Jasper K. Summers, 49, as the suspect in a rape that occurred in Greensboro in November 1992. Another DNA match identified Ronald D. Miles, 35, of 1505-B Elmer Street, as a suspect in rape that occurred in November 2002.

Summers was already serving a life sentence for armed robbery in Scotland Correctional Institute but could have been eligible for parole prior to the new charge. Miles is in jail awaiting trial for a series of rapes in the Greensboro/Burlington area, which were also solved using DNA analysis.

Recent federal grants from the US Department of Justice will help the SBI test more no-suspect rape kits, purchase needed equipment and convert existing rooms to DNA analyst workspace. Additional federal funds are on their way to help analyze DNA samples from convicted felons so they can be added to North Carolina’s database of offender DNA.

NC Department of Justice y 9001 Mail Service Center Raleigh, NC 27699-9001 y (919) 716-6400

Cooper has long pushed to expand North Carolina’s ability to use DNA evidence to convict the guilty and exonerate the innocent. He led the fight last year to make North Carolina the 29th state to include all felons in its convicted offender DNA database, giving detectives a greater field to search. He has also won more agents to test DNA evidence. This year, Cooper won legislative approval to expand the SBI Crime Lab to improve the efficiency of DNA testing. In addition, legislators approved $250,000 to pay private labs to analyze rape kits.

However, legislators did not grant a request for more experts for the DNA lab. Over the past few years, North Carolina has more than tripled the number of DNA analysts at the SBI lab and begun attacking a backlog of cases. But the North Carolina lab still has fewer experts than neighboring Virginia, which has one million fewer residents but more than 40 DNA analysts. Cooper believes that the legislature must address the problem during its next session by providing more DNA agents and uploading convicted offender samples more quickly.