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Friday, August 26, 2011

Bowling Green Jury Convicts Man Of Rape Of 12 Year Old Based On Placental DNA Paternity Testing -- First In Kentucky.

Guilty verdict quick with DNA help
Cutting-edge technology helps to convict man on two counts of first-degree rape of girl, 12

Cutting-edge DNA technology proved that Charles Stowers, 31, impregnated a 12-year-old girl he raped twice in 2009.

After deliberating less than 20 minutes, a Warren Circuit Court jury convicted Stowers on Wednesday afternoon on two counts of first-degree rape and recommended a 50-year-prison sentence for the crimes. A final sentencing hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. Sept. 26. Stowers has been lodged in the Warren County Regional Jail since his initial arrest in 2009.

Stowers’ conviction marks the first time that placental DNA paternity testing has been used to successfully convict someone of rape in Kentucky, Kentucky State Police Detective Scott Skaggs said.

“I think it meant everything to the case,” Commonwealth’s Attorney Chris Cohron said after the two-day trial.

Stowers was arrested in 2009 after the girl he was convicted of raping was taken to The Medical Center for abdominal pain and bleeding. The girl, who did not know she was between eight and 10 weeks pregnant, was having a miscarriage.

When the girl told care providers at The Medical Center that she had been raped, emergency room nurse Rebecca Melloan’s quick thinking helped preserve the evidence used to convict Stowers, Skaggs and Cohron both said.

Melloan cried while testifying Tuesday about the night of Sept. 9, 2009, when she helped treat the girl. Typically when a patient miscarries, the products of conception are collected and placed in a preservative that would kill cells that could be used for forensic testing, she said in court testimony.

Instead, that night Melloan called Dr. James Beattie, a pathologist, who instructed her and other medical care providers on how to preserve the tissue for DNA testing. That tissue and DNA specimens obtained from the girl and Stowers were taken to the Kentucky State Police Crime Lab and then to Orchid Cellmark, a Dallas lab that conducted the placental DNA paternity test.

“She had the presence of mind at the very beginning of this to not do what they always do and that’s take the placental tissue and put it in a medium that would kill the cells and render DNA analysis more difficult, if not impossible,” Skaggs said after the verdict was read.

That step was a “huge help” to forensic scientists at Orchid Cellmark, said Rick Staub, forensics laboratory director at Orchid Cellmark.

Staub testified that the DNA analysis concluded Stowers’ DNA sample obtained by police was a 99.999 percent match to the paternal DNA extracted from the placental tissue. A 100 percent match is “impossible” to obtain, he said.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen one stronger than this one with a fetal mixture,” Staub said during a telephone interview Thursday.

The state lab doesn’t have the technology to test for paternity on placental tissue samples, forensic biologist Steven Barrett said during court testimony.

“It’s not a common specimen that we get in our lab,” Staub said about placental tissue. “But we have gotten them before, and we have gotten results from them.”

Orchid Cellmark works on a regular basis with about 20 state crime labs, Staub said.

“When I got this report, it was one of the happiest days in my career,” Skaggs said while holding the paternity test results after the trial. “It not only proved (Stowers) a liar, it proved (the girl) to be telling the truth.”

Cohron agreed.

“We knew what it meant. These cases are so difficult for the children, and the DNA means everything. You can’t refute the irrefutable,” Cohron said.

The girl’s mother cried as the guilty verdict was read and said she felt that justice had been served. Stowers showed no emotion upon hearing the verdict.

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