DNA identifies suspects in two 1998 rape cases

THE BALTIMORE SUN

In the Baltimore County Police Department's effort to solve old crimes using new methods, two men have been charged in two separate 1998 rapes after DNA evidence linked them to the crimes, police said yesterday.

Thurman Spencer, 35, of the 1200 block of Turpin Lane in Baltimore was charged with first-degree rape, two counts of armed robbery, two counts of first-degree assault and two counts of using a handgun in a crime of violence, police said.

The charges stem from an Oct. 15, 1998, incident in Owings Mills in which a man about to enter his girlfriend's apartment was approached by two men with a gun. The suspects forced the man inside the apartment and robbed both victims. During the robbery, one of the suspects forced the woman into a bedroom and raped her, police said.

In November, DNA evidence from that crime was submitted to a national DNA database. The database identified Spencer as the rape suspect. He was arrested Dec. 31 and has been released on $75,000 bail.

In the second case, Charnard Demon Jones, 26, of the 6200 block of Gist Ave. in Baltimore has been charged with a first-degree sex offense, first-degree assault and sodomy, police said.

On Dec. 4, 1998, a woman left a bar in the 8500 block of Liberty Road in Randallstown. In the parking lot, the victim got into the back seat of a car and was sexually assaulted by a man in the car. The man beat her, fracturing her jaw and an eye socket and partly tearing off an ear. After dragging the woman from the car, the man fled.

DNA from that case also was submitted to the national database in November. Jones was identified as the suspect and is being held at the Baltimore County Detention Center after being denied bail.

In 1998, DNA testing wasn't as widely available as it is today, said Officer Shawn Vinson, a county police spokesman. Since the spring of last year, with the help of a federal grant, the department has had one detective assigned specifically to look into unsolved sex crimes that might have DNA evidence that couldn't be used at the time, Vinson said.

The DNA database used by police was created in 1994 and contains DNA samples from Maryland felons.

Six men have been charged and three old cases solved as a result of the effort. An additional suspect was identified but died in 2002.

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