Police: New technology, laws help solve 1995 Wilmington rape case

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — After 25 years of work, a Wilmington Police solved a rape case once considered a cold case.

Police say this is the second rape case from the 1990s they’ve been able to solve just in the last few years with the help of more advanced technology and funding to get sexual assault kits tested.

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Captain Thomas Tilmon says in 1995, a 25-year-old woman was working at a convenience store on 23rd street. At 2 A.M. one morning, he says a man robbed the store and sexually assaulted the woman, but ran away before police could get there.

On Tuesday, police announced 53-year-old Freddie Jackson faces several charges in connection with the case, including first degree rape and first degree kidnapping. Jackson is already serving time in Columbus County for other recent robberies.

Tilmon explains why the charges took so long.

“Some of this technology didn’t exist at the time this case occurred,” he said.

Tilmon says the CODIS system, a DNA tracking system, and changes in the way sexual assault kits are tested have reshaped their ability to solve cases.

“When this rape happened, the rules at the lab were, ‘We won’t test this kit without a suspect sample,'” Tilmon said. “So if you could never develop a suspect in the rape, then you couldn’t submit the rape kit for suspect analysis.”

Now, he says they can test sexual assault kits without a known suspect, using that CODIS system. Tilmon says they sent this victim’s kit off in 2019 and seven months later, got a hit.

Not only was it a long process for police, but Chelsea Croom with the Coastal Horizons Rape Crisis Center says it’s also hard for the victims in these cases.

“She may have moved on with her life,” Croom said. “Any victim who is coming back after that long of time to a case that was so long ago, she may be feeling validated, but she’s also probably stressed out.”

Tilmon thinks this case will give more victims hope and trust in police to solve their cases.

“Once the public and victims start seeing this case brought to justice and the spotlight, then the more willing those victims are to come forward,” he said.

Tilmon says they’re still facing roadblocks with the testing of sexual assault kits. He says DNA testing requires such advanced technology, and hopes to see things progress in order to have success with even more cases.

He says the testing technology is extremely expensive, but he’s working to bring more and more resources to the department. Just recently, Tilmon says sent off sexual assault kits from 1996 and 2008.