DNA test points to suspect in 1992 rape
In 1992 a stranger broke into Sharyn Peal’s home and repeatedly raped her.
Four years later, when the statute of limitations was running out and there was still no suspect in the case, she lobbied the Nevada Legislature to have the law changed. In 1997 her worked paid off. The law, however, made no difference in Peal’s case. The statute expired in August 2006.
Then, last month, the national DNA database hit upon a match with DNA taken from a former Carson City man serving seven years in a California prison for a South Lake Tahoe incident.
Peal’s rapist will never serve a day in prison for this crime, but the outspoken victims’ rights advocate is thrilled to put a name to the face that has haunted her for 15 years.
“This is a time of joy,” Peal said. “Seeing anyone with that general build in the past would cause my heart to stop and now I only have to be afraid of one person.”
On Aug. 5, 1992, Peal was sleeping in her east Carson City home when she woke at about 4 a.m. to find a stranger in her bedroom.
“The next thing I knew there was something on top of me. He’d broken into the house and for approximately two hours he was in my home,” Peal recalled. “He raped me repeatedly. Then left me tied to my bed. At one point I was convinced he was going to kill me because I had seen his face and he told me that was a mistake. After he left, I forced myself to wait five minutes listening to songs on the radio.”
Peal said she eventually got herself untied, but in a state of shock, contemplated calling in sick to work. Then she realized her car was missing. She thought to herself there was a chance they could catch him if he was in her car.
At about 6:30 a.m., a man was seen driving Peal’s car on State Route 28. Witnesses reported he lost control in a turn and struck another vehicle. The man fled the scene and left Peal’s bloodied car near Lake Shore Drive in Incline Village.
The blood in the vehicle matched DNA taken from the 42-year-old suspect when he was convicted in El Dorado County District Court in January on a charge of exhibiting a firearm to avoid arrest. The details of that case were not available Wednesday.
In 1992, the Nevada statute of limitations for prosecuting a rapist was the same as for car theft – prosecutors had four years to file a case.
Peal said she was never ashamed of what had happened to her. She was angry.
“I just knew from the first minute that I was the victim, so I had no real embarrassment,” she said. “I knew it was not sex. I knew it was a crime, and I was angry that someone was abusing me. Intellectually, I knew I was totally innocent and it just ticked me off and I wanted to do something.”
Peal started by telling her story to small groups of women. When she learned there was a clock ticking on her case, she went public to garner tips in her case. Her story captured the attention of an assemblywoman from Sparks who sponsored the bill to give authorities more time to make an arrest.
Peal stood next to then-Gov. Bob Miller when he signed the bill into law.
“To me getting the legislation passed was the closure. I wanted a trophy on my wall, I wanted to have him in jail, but it seemed I wasn’t going to be able to get any of those items. The legislation was my form of closure,” said Peal. “Now I have the icing on the cake.”
Carson City Sheriff’s Detective Craig Lowe said he spoke by phone to the suspect about two weeks ago at San Luis Obispo Mens Colony. The man expressed remorse, but stopped short of admitting his part, Lowe said.
After Lowe told him the statute of limitations had run out and he couldn’t be tried, the suspect requested a letter from the Carson City District Attorney saying as much. Before Lowe could oblige, the suspect got back in touch. A jail-house lawyer had advised him if he admitted anything, Peal could go after him in civil court, Lowe said.
Sgt. Bob White said with or without the suspect’s cooperation, a second DNA test will be done to confirm the first.
Peal knows what the results will be. She recognizes the face that stares out at her from a mugshot.
“I now realize it’s still important knowing who he is and what he is,” she said. “But I could have lived without having this knowledge – I would still be happy.”
• Contact reporter F.T. Norton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1213.
Quick Facts on DNA
The FBI Laboratory’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) blends forensic science and computer technology into a tool for solving violent crimes. CODIS enables federal, state, and local crime labs to exchange and compare DNA profiles electronically, thereby linking crimes to each other and to convicted offenders.
In October 1998, the FBI’s National DNA Index System (NDIS) became operational. CODIS is implemented as a distributed database with three hierarchical levels – local, state and national. NDIS is the highest level in the CODIS hierarchy, and enables the labs participating in the CODIS Program to exchange and compare DNA profiles on a national level. All DNA profiles originate at the local level (LDIS), then flow to the state (SDIS) and national levels. SDIS allows laboratories within states to exchange DNA profiles. The tiered approach allows state and local agencies to operate their databases according to their specific legislative or legal requirements.
As of July 2007 the profile composition of the National DNA Index System (NDIS) is as follows:
Total number of profiles – 4,949,831
Total Forensic profiles – 183,441
Total Convicted Offender profiles – 4,766,390
Statistical Information For Nevada
Offender Profiles – 24,386
Forensic Samples – 1,581
Number of CODIS Labs – 2
NDIS Participating Labs – 2
Investigations Aided – 370
On Oct. 1, all people convicted of a felony in the state of Nevada will be required to submit a DNA sample. Currently, Nevada law only allows the collection of DNA samples from those convicted of serious and violent felonies.