SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Modern technology increasingly means old cases are never cold. A DNA match spotted by a nationwide computer database led to a man from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, being charged with raping a woman whom he encountered on a sidewalk near Missouri State University early one morning nearly three years ago.
Greene County prosecutors charged Charlie West on Tuesday with forcible rape, forcible sodomy and kidnapping. Cedar Rapids, Iowa Police arrested West late Wednesday afternoon. If West, 28, is convicted, he could face three life prison sentences.
The rape on June 15, 2009, got little, if any, publicity. A young woman told police that she'd gotten in a fight with a male friend and walking east on Cherry Street from National Avenue to another location about 3:20 a.m. The woman said a man walked up behind her, said "hi," and then followed her.
site of rape on June 15, 2009
1348 E Cherry St, Springfield, MO 65802, USA
convenience store security video shows man matching rapist's description a few minutes before rape
609 E Elm St, Springfield, MO 65806, USA
Charles West convicted of making or selling illegal drugs in 2004
Chicago, IL, USA
Charles West was living here in January and February, 2012
941 M St SW, Cedar Rapids, IA 52404, USA
The man then asked if he could go back to her house, and, after she refused, he grabbed her around the neck, choked her, threatened to kill her if she screamed, and dragged her into a yard at 1348 Cherry St. She said she begged him "not to do this" and offered to give him her money.
According to the probable cause statement used as the basis of the charges, the woman told police that the man asked for money. When she said she didn't have any, she said he forced her to perform oral sex on him, then pulled her pants down and raped her, then repeated both acts, and then ran away.
The woman then ran frantically from door to door, banging until a married couple heard her screams and let her inside to call police. "I didn't know if I would be alive in the next hour, so I told myself, with what time I had left and what time I was going to be granted, I was going to make the most of it," the victim said in a phone interview.
A detective found surveillance video of a man who matched the woman's description of her rapist at a convenience store on the corner of Elm Street at Kimbrough Avenue. That was as close as police came to finding the woman's attacker.
Investigators also took swabs from the victim and preserved DNA from her attacker. "If she hadn't gone to get a rape kit done, we probably would not have been able to find the suspect in this case, and ultimately charge the defendant with this crime," says Assistant Greene County Prosecutor Ami Miller.
In 2010, investigators received word of a possible DNA match. The FBI's national DNA database, known as CODIS, matched the DNA to West, who has convictions for illegal drugs in the Chicago area.
Investigators tracked West to Cedar Rapids, where he was living this winter. A detective there got a search warrant and took a DNA swab from West, and took photographs of his groin. The detective also interviewed West, who admitted he lived near MSU in Springfield in 2009. He denied raping the woman, however.
The new DNA swab matched the DNA from the rape victim in Springfield. That led to the charges filed on Tuesday. Prosecutors have asked for a $150,000 bond.
The victim is moving on with her life with the support of loved ones.
"My family came down and just sat there with me and told me they loved me, that I am loved, and that they're so glad I was here, and they were supportive of me. My friends rallied around me and helped me to move forward and be happy and to bring light into my life," the victim said in a telephone interview on Wednesday afternoon.
She's relieved to be one step closer to closure.
"I just hope I can kind of be granted peace inside, to know that justice was served," the victim said.
She says she lived in fear long after the attack and now shares this advice for other women.
"You should definitely not be by yourself. Always make sure people know where you are. Always make sure you have taken precautions to be as safe as your can, and never be afraid, if something does happen to you, to tell somebody."