A serial rapist was on the loose in Texas’s largest city, breaking into homes and sexually assaulting women in their beds at the point of a knife, or end of a gun. But there was evidence, and several suspects.
A group of forensic scientists worked overtime, turned around crucial evidence in a crunch of just a few crucial hours – clearing one suspect, confirming another, and pulling the alleged attacker off the streets earlier this year.
Coupled with a round-the-clock investigation by a Houston police detective, the suspect is now awaiting trial behind bars, without bail.
"So much work was put into this - that's why it was a huge help from the lab to move so quickly," said Kim Miller, a Houston detective in the robbery division.
The group of 13 analysts at the Houston Forensic Science Center will now be officially commended today for their role in the arrest of Reginald Dwayne Bond, currently awaiting trial.
Jennifer Clay, Ben Cambridge, Maria Rumble, Zoraya Reyes, India Henry, Katie Foster, Kerry Todd, Mary Hall, Mary Symonds, Diana Donley, Jisel Bailon, Clay Davis, and Courtney Head will receive the Houston Police Department’s Chief of Police Unit Citation at an awards ceremony this morning.
Miller also received an award of excellence from the chief for cracking the case.
Bond, 37, was arrested in January. But the charges of five counts of burglary with intent to commit sexual assault were the product of hours in the laboratory that began in August 2015, according to HFSC.
A rape kit was processed then – and a report just a few weeks later noted an unknown male DNA profile from swabs of the victim’s breasts, authorities said. The profile was uploaded into CODIS.
A pen believed to have been handled by the possible suspect was brought to the laboratory team on Jan. 13, 2016.
A sample from a possible suspect was compared to the pieces of evidence on Jan. 22 at 10 a.m. – and that person was cleared based on those two samples within hours.
The very same evening, a reference sample from Bond was tagged into the Houston Police’s property room.
Four of the analysts were back in the laboratory the next morning, a Saturday, to make the comparison. Bond could not be excluded as a suspect from the breast swabs from August 2015.
The DNA analysis overall was completed within 10 hours.
Normally a rape-kit sample can take up to 30 days - but this was made urgent, and the analysts responded, said Ramit Plushnick-Masti, a spokeswoman for the HFSC.
"There was an acceleration in this case," said Plushnick-Masti. "Normally our turnaround times for sexual assault kits are 30 days or less from moment of request to a report issued."
Bond was arrested and charged, based on evidence recovered from five attacks in Houston and nearby Jersey Village, in June 2014, April 2015, May 2015, Christmas 2015, and Jan. 17 of this year.
The assaults were connected forensically to a series of attacks in Missouri stretching back to 2008, said Miller, the detective on the case. Bond was tracked down from the burglary on Christmas Day in Houston. The theft of a laptop which had a tracker in that break-in led police to another apartment a few miles away. The Missouri license plate in the complex led to an apartment where Bond was staying with a friend, said police.
Miller said moving on the DNA almost immediately was vital to ensure that Bond could be caught and held before fleeing back to Missouri - or parts unknown.
"It just had to happen the way it had to happen," the detective said. "I knew this guy was slick, and he'd slip out if he got a chance."
Also receiving an award in the investigation was the HPD's tactical unit for the city's west side, who were crucial in surveillance operations.
Bond remains in jail in Harris County, and is held without bail. Police are still looking for other victims. Anyone with information is asked to call the HPD’s Robbery Division at (713) 308-0700.
Image Caption: Members of the Houston Forensic Science Center team that helped catch an alleged sexual predator. From left to right beginning in the back row: Clay Davis, Kerry Todd, Mary Hall, Zoraya Reyes, Maria Rumble Bottom row left to right: Jennifer Clay, Jisel Bailon and Diana Donley. (Courtesy of the HFSC)