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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Woman raped decades ago in Dallas gets to confront attacker even though he’ll never be convicted of

     

    Joseph Houston got away with rape for nearly 27 years. But on Wednesday, one of three women linked to his attacks by DNA evidence had her day in court.

    Houston sat silently in a Dallas County courtroom and listened as the woman he raped at knifepoint in 1984 told him the pain he caused did not damage her.

    “”I stand before you a whole person with my head held high,”” she told Houston during a victim impact statement. “”Rape will never define who I am. But it will leave an indelible mark on the name you carry.””

    It was the first time a 2009 state law allowed a woman raped decades ago to confront her attacker in court, even though the statute of limitations had run out on his crime. The man is linked to the assault by DNA evidence.

    The law allows scientifically conclusive DNA evidence to be considered in the punishment phase of a trial.

    Houston pleaded guilty this week to two counts of indecency with a child by contact and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. He admitted fondling an 11-year-old girl through her clothes.

    The girl told a cousin about the molestation a year after it occurred. The child is now in high school.

    Because of the new law, one of the women could take the stand to admonish Houston for attacking her years earlier as she came home to her apartment at Lovers Lane andGreenville Avenue after a first date with her now-husband.

    Houston, who appeared to stare straight ahead as the woman he raped spoke, has convictions for aggravated kidnapping and burglary of a vehicle, court records show. He was charged with attempted aggravated rape but pleaded guilty to robbery in 1977 after a trial ended in a hung jury, according to court records.

    The two other women Houston raped did not want to come to court to address Houston. One woman is in poor health, and her doctor said it wasn’t a good idea.

    Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins, who advocated for the change in the law, declined to comment through his spokeswoman.

    Using DNA testing, Dallas police Sgt. Pat Welsh has matched 33 sexual assaults to suspects in cases in which the statute of limitations has run out. Houston is connected to three cases and another man is connected to two.

    There is now no statute of limitations for sexual assault in which DNA evidence is retained. But the 33 cold cases are from the 1980s and early ’90, when the statute of limitations for such cases was five years.

    “”It’s a good day for justice,”” Welsh said Wednesday after the court proceeding. “”Although it took close to 27 years.””

    Police in Harris County are also investigating cold case rapes, but it was not clear Wednesday how many matches they have made.

    Another man matched to a Dallas cold case rape through DNA has a criminal case pending in Hill County, where he is accused of stealing from a lumberyard.

    In 2005, through the Dallas police’s Sexual Assault Cold Case Program, Welsh began reopening cold case sexual assaults in which evidence from rape exams had been preserved. The county crime lab, the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences, stores thousands of samples dating to 1981. It’s the same stockpile of DNA evidence that so far has proved more than 20 men were wrongly convicted in Dallas County.

    Welsh said he is pursing a federal grant to fund more cold case investigations.

    When Welsh or other detectives throughout the state solve a cold case with DNA that can’t be prosecuted because the case is too old, detectives send the information to the Texas Department of Public Safety. The DNA matches are available to law enforcement officials searching for a criminal record.

    Welsh first matched Houston to a sexual assault in 2008. He said Wednesday that he’s certain other cases involving Houston could be out there.

    Victims of unsolved sexual assaults committed by a stranger where DNA evidence was preserved can contact Dallas police’s Sexual Assault Cold Case Program to request a review of their cases. The department will investigate cases prior to 1996, when the statute of limitations for sexual assault was still five years. Victims can call Dallas police at 214-671-3584.

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