DNA testing of cold case rape kit cracks second Wilmington case in 2 years

Freddie Jackson faces charges for robbing a Wilmington convenience store back in 1995 and sexually assaulting the clerk.
Updated: Oct. 15, 2020 at 6:06 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - This week detectives with the WPD charged a man in connection with a 25 year old cold case rape.

Freddie Jackson faces charges for robbing a Wilmington convenience store back in 1995 and sexually assaulting the clerk. The victim was a working mother, going to school for her master’s degree by day and working to support her family at night.

Jackson, 53, is currently in custody in Columbus County serving time for a different crime in 1997. Police say he reportedly robbed a convenience store, assaulted the clerk and was apprehended by deputies while driving the victim’s car. He was expected to be released in 2027 before he was charged by Wilmington Police.

While its been a long road to justice, officers say they’re happy to have cracked the case.

“It’s the entire division, it’s all the detectives working together. They make these cases happen and when they do and you get a really bad person that goes to prison for life and can’t do this to anyone else, I can sleep easy at night I can look at myself in the mirror every day when I wake up and despite the national sentiment, I’m still confident that what I do is important,” said Captain Thomas Tilmon.

Decades ago, you couldn’t test a rape kit without submitting a sample from the suspect, meaning if investigators had no suspect, the kit would go untested. The laws stayed that way until 2019 when the Standing up for Rape Victims Act was signed.

This victim’s rape kit sat in storage until 2019. In March of 2020, officers of the Wilmington Police Department were notified of a CODIS hit, meaning someone’s DNA in the database matched he DNA in the victim’s rape kit.

Police cant make an arrest simply on the database hit alone though, so detectives worked for seven months to uncover more evidence and determine Jackson was in fact their suspect.

Captain Tilmon adds that new breakthroughs in technology made a huge impact in this particular case.

“The technology that we employed in this case didn’t exist didn’t exist until recently so we’re taking advantage of the new technology to resubmit the evidence and going please, please, please. You know, hopefully it gives us that little bit of push extra that we need to bring justice for the victims family,” said Tilmon. “The detective that worked this case in 1995 did every procedural step that he could take at the time with the technology he had access to.”

The Jackson case wasn’t the first CODIS hit that’s cracked a cold case in Wilmington.

Last summer, WPD announced the arrest of Wayne Soller for allegedly raping another woman 20 years ago. Investigators credit the victim’s rape kit, which was also sent off in 2019, for netting a CODIS hit and allowing police to build a case.

WPD Investigators say the department continues to send off evidence kits in hopes of getting more breakthrough DNA matches.

Recently they’ve sent off evidence in a 2008 rape, and another rape case from 1996 that has connections to the dual murder case of Angela Rothen and Allison Foy.

Statewide agencies have continued efforts to shrink the backlog of rape kits.

The attorney general’s office says of more than 8,212 kits inventoried, nearly 1,903 have been tested and garnered more than 248 CODIS database hits. An additional 3,053 kits are being outsourced to other labs for testing and 3,262 are with the state crime lab for testing.

“I hope that some of the steps we’ve taken in Wilmington parallel with what Josh Stein has done on the state level and that we bring more of these cases to justice. I think when the public and victims start seeing more of these cases brought to justice in the spotlight, then the more willing they will be to come forward and know that we’re on their side because we are,” said Tilmon.

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