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DNA tested 16 years after a rape in St. Paul gets a match, suspect charged

St. Paul police admits the delay in the evidence being tested was "not perfect."

DNA evidence that went untested for 16 years has led to a man being charged for the rape of a woman in Minnesota in 1998.

DNA evidence taken after a sexual assault in St. Paul in July 1998 was finally tested in June 2014. The Minnesota Bureau of Apprehension eventually connected it to the DNA profile of an inmate in Illinois, the Ramsey County Attorney's Office said.

Robert Anthony Bradfield, 38, who is in jail after being convicted of robbery and is accused of another sexual assault in Detroit, Michigan, has been charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct in Ramsey County.

It follows what St. Paul police described to the Pioneer Press as "not perfect" work from the police department, with spokesman Mike Ernster telling the paper the evidence "sat there unrecognized" in the property room refrigerator since being taken.

Also, the investigator who worked the case at the time is retired and his notes were handwritten, making it difficult to figure out why the evidence wasn't immediately submitted to the BCA for analysis.

It was only when St. Paul decided in 2012 to submit all its past sex-assault kits for testing that progress was made, which came amid a wider movement among authorities in Minnesota and nationwide to address the thousands of untested rape kits that have been gathering dust in evidence rooms in recent decades.

What happened

According to the criminal complaint:

St. Paul Police were called to an apartment on North Oxford Street at 11:49 p.m. on July 4, 1998, after a then 29-year-old woman reported being sexually assault.

She had been talking with some friends outside a home on North Oxford when a man approached them and began talking with them. When she mentioned her phone wasn't working, he told her he could fix it and they went to her apartment.

Once inside, he tried to kiss her and pull her towards him. When she objected, he pulled her down the hallway and into the bathroom. He closed the door and started again trying to kiss her.

As she tried to open the door he became rougher, and when she finally managed to get out of the bathroom, he pulled her to the floor, and began raping her. The assault lasted about 5 minutes.

She told police he had a tattoo saying "Rhea" on his left forearm and she was taken to Regions Hospital for a sexual assault examination.

When the DNA was tested in 2014, it matched to a sexual assault in Detroit, Michigan, which was allegedly carried out by Bradfield. He has been charged with criminal sexual conduct and kidnap in relation to it. He's currently serving a sentence for robbery in Illinois and is due for parole in April 2018.

When questioned about it, he told police he didn't remember committing a sexual assault in St. Paul, but admitted he was in the city around that time.

"He did not deny committing the sexual assault, but he said that he just could not remember," the complaint said. Detectives also noted a tattoo spelling "Rhea" on his forearm.

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