“Bristol County District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn’s Untested Rape Kit Initiative has resulted in the indictment of 28-year-old Dylan Ponte for the cold case rape of a 16-year-old girl in New Bedford in July of 2012.
On Friday, a Bristol County Grand Jury indicted Ponte on two counts of Rape, two counts of Indecent Assault and Battery on a Person Over the Age of 14 and one count of Witness Intimidation. Due to this indictment, the defendant’s case will now be handled in Fall River Superior Court. The court will likely set an arraignment date for the new indictment for sometime in September. Once an arraignment date is scheduled, this office will send out a follow up media advisory.
The defendant was arrested last month in connection to this case and initially appeared in New Bedford District Court, where a judge deem him dangerous but set bail at $1,000 cash.
On the night of July 3, 2012, the victim had been given alcohol, and was drinking with the defendant and others in the area of the Hayden-McFadden School. The victim told police at the time that she blacked out between 1 am and 7 am on July 4th. The victim woke up outside her friend’s home around 7 am on July 4, 2012. When she woke up outside the house, she had no underwear on, had bruising on multiple areas of her body and was experiencing pain in multiple private areas of her body.
The victim immediately went to the hospital with her friend and New Bedford Police were contacted. While at St. Luke’s Hospital in New Bedford on July 4, 2012, the victim submitted to a rape kit. That kit was one of more than at least 7,000 kits from throughout the state that was never fully tested by the state lab. However, after our office became aware of the scope and breadth of the problem with untested rape kits, we took action to obtain a federal grant. We then began the painstaking process of inventorying and prioritizing all untested rape kits in our county, and are now in the process of getting all 1,148 previously untested Bristol County rape kits fully tested by a private lab under the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) grant obtained by District Attorney Quinn in 2019.
In May of this year, the rape kit connected to this case was tested and resulted in the recovery of a DNA profile, which in turn resulted in a CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) hit to Dylan Ponte. If District Attorney Quinn had not undertaken this initiative and brought this issue to light statewide, the kit would likely never have been fully tested and the case would have remained unsolved. The statute of limitations on this case would have expired in July 2027.
“I am very pleased our rape kit initiative has resulted in the indictment of the defendant. If our office did not take the initiative to get these kits tested by a private lab, this case would not have been solved,” District Attorney Quinn said. “I appreciate that the victim in this case has expressed gratitude for our efforts in not forgetting about her case. She feels vindicated. I am glad that she will have her day in court.”
This case is one of three cold case rapes already solved a result of DA Quinn’s Untested Rape Kit Initiative and the office is optimistic more charges will be filed in other cases as the private lab testing continues. Two of those the cases have been publicly announced, while the third still remains a sealed matter at this time.
The revelation that so many rape kits throughout the state were not being fully tested began shortly after a defendant by the name of John Loflin was convicted in late 2013 for the cold case 2002 murder of Marlene Rose in New Bedford. Loflin had previously been charged with a 1997 New Bedford rape, but the case was eventually dismissed after the alleged victim left the country. The alleged victim in that case submitted to a rape kit. That rape kit was sent up to the state lab three weeks after the rape, but unbeknownst to law enforcement, it had never been fully tested. After Marlene Rose was murdered in 2002, DNA evidence was collected and sent to the state lab for testing. If the 1997 rape kit had been fully tested at the time, the Marlene Rose DNA evidence would have matched to that 1997 case and Loflin would have been arrested in connection to the Marlene Rose homicide. Instead, Loflin was not identified as the murderer of Rose until 2011 when he was arrested in Tennessee on unrelated charges. Loflin was compelled by Tennessee law to provide a DNA sample as a result of his criminal charges in that state. Once that DNA sample was uploaded to CODIS, it immediately matched with the 2002 DNA evidence connected to the murder of Marlene Rose. Loflin was then charged here in Bristol County with Marlene Rose’s murder and was eventually convicted and sentenced to life in prison in November of 2013.
After learning about the 1997 rape case and discovering that the rape kit in that case had never been tested, our office began looking into other cold case rapes and attempted to determine whether there were other rape kits that were also not fully tested by the state lab. District Attorney Quinn poured a number of resources and man hours into this review. After inventorying many rape kits from all 20 of Bristol County’s cities and towns, it began to become clear that there were a great deal of rape kits that were not being fully tested. Our office then researched and applied for the federal SAKI grant. In October of 2018, our office was notified that our grant application was approved and that federal grant money would be awarded. In June of 2019, the federal grant money was deposited into the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office account. We immediately used that grant money to hire a retired Massachusetts State Police detective to assist staff members in our office with training, inventorying and prioritizing the untested rape kits. Our office is the first District Attorney’s office in the state to undertake this large-scale initiative and obtain the federal grant program.
After numerous delays due to Covid-19 and other issues with the state lab, the first batches of prioritized untested rape kits were sent to a private lab (Bode Laboratories) for testing in April of 2021. Although the testing got off to a slow start, we have been informed that all 1,148 previously untested rape kits will likely be fully tested by the private lab by the end of this year.
“During the investigation of a cold case homicide we discovered that more than 1,100 rape kits in our county had not been fully tested by the state lab. This was totally unacceptable, especially for victims, the public and law enforcement who believed these kits were being fully tested. I immediately dedicated office resources so that every rape kit would now be fully tested to help identify perpetrators who had remained uncharged,” District Attorney Quinn said. “I am optimistic there are other cases that will be solved as a result of our rape kit initiative. Our office discovered a major problem, took action and devoted an immense amount of resources to it, and is now in the process of solving it.” -Bristol County District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn’s Office.