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Man found murdered identified as attacker in 2020 Mississippi cold case – first rape case in state to be solved by genetic genealogy – Magnolia State Live

Man found murdered identified as attacker in 2020 Mississippi cold case – first rape case in state to be solved by genetic genealogy

Published at 7:36 a.m. on Thursday May 16, 2024

A man found murdered was identified as the attacker in a 2020 sex attack using genetic genealogy – the first rape case in Mississippi to be solved using new DNA technology.

On January 15, 2020, a woman was brutally attacked on First Street in Prentiss. An unknown assailant dragged the woman into an abandoned house, attacked her with pepper spray and sexually assaulted her.

Officials with the Prentiss Police Department were alerted to the incident and the woman was transported to Jefferson Davis Community Hospital for evaluation. DNA evidence was collected at the hospital and submitted to the Mississippi Forensic Laboratory for analysis in hopes that the unknown assailant could be identified.

After the attack, the victim was interviewed and she provided a statement including a description of her attacker.

Using this information, along with surveillance footage from the area of ​​the attack, Prentiss police officers identified a person of interest in the case.

A six-panel list was developed to include the person of interest, leading to the arrest of a man who was known to live near the crime scene.

After a DNA comparison, it was determined that the man was not the attacker and he was excluded from consideration.

Without additional leads, the investigation has stalled. The rapist could not be identified and the case remained unsolved.

In June 2023, Prentiss Detective Richard Browning, working with the Mississippi Forensic Laboratory, submitted forensic evidence to Othram in The Woodlands, Texas, in hopes that advanced DNA testing could help to name the unidentified male suspect.

Othram specializes in forensic genetic genealogy to solve unsolved murders, disappearances and the identification of unidentified deceased or murder victims. The company also provides law enforcement agencies with tools and programs to infer the kinship between individuals, whether close or distant.

Othram scientists successfully developed a DNA extract from the forensic evidence and used the profile in genetic genealogical research to develop new lines of inquiry in this case.

Prentiss Police Chief Richard Browning led the follow-up investigation, which led to possible genetic relatives of the suspect, including three women with the last name “Washington.”

Chief Browning knew the Washington family and learned that Derrick Washington lived on First Street at the time of the January 2020 assault.

Twelve months later, in December 2020, Washington was found shot to death in a home on Polk Oatis Road, just outside Prentiss. His murder is currently unsolved.

The Mississippi forensic laboratory compared the profile of a DNA sample collected during Washington’s autopsy to a profile developed from a DNA sample collected during the assault victim’s examination sexual. In March 2024, the comparison confirmed that Derrick Washington was the person who sexually assaulted the victim at the abandoned house on First Street in 2020.

“The victim in this case really wanted to know who did this to her,” Chief Browning said. “We stayed in touch over the years and I was so happy to finally tell him the case was resolved. Even though she will never be able to get justice in court, she now has the chance to turn the page. »

Funding to support this case was provided by Carla Davis, a philanthropist and Mississippi native who is committed to resolving the backlog of cold cases in Mississippi.