The good news for a Lafourche Parish rape victim is that her suspected assailant is behind bars.
The bad news: It took three years to find him.
It wasn’t as though the Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Office missed their man. DNA collected shortly after the November 2006 rape was immediately forwarded to the Louisiana State Police Crime Lab in Baton Rouge for processing.
For the next three years, while lab technicians were buried under a mound of requests, the DNA evidence sat.
Meanwhile, the victim waited for word of the arrest of the man who picked her up as she walked along the rural road that November night in 2006, drove her to a wooded area and raped her.
In July, the crime lab returned results to the sheriff’s office with good news – they’d found a match.
And the suspect, Curtis Hinton, 55, of 160 Nora T. Lane, Thibodaux, was charged last week with one count of forcible rape after detectives obtained a comparison DNA swab.
Authorities cited Hinton’s extensive rap sheet, which dates back to 1971. In addition to being AWOL from the military, he has prior arrests for rape and assaulting the police. In fact, he was sentenced in 1986 for attempted second-degree murder and aggravated crime against nature with a tire tool.
Hinton served 20 years for the charges. He’d been out of prison for less than a year and had registered as a convicted sex offender when he allegedly assaulted the Lafourche woman, Sheriff Craig Webre told the media.
It is reassuring to law-abiding citizens that this case will soon head to court. However, the delay raises an important question: Is Louisiana well served from evildoers with only one crime lab available to law enforcement?
“This is a frustrating example of what’s happening in so many instances,” Webre said of the delay. “As the chairman of the Southeast Louisiana Criminalistics Laboratory Commission, I know first hand that the LSP Crime Lab is overburdened with a massive caseload and are called upon to do more with less.
“Under the circumstances, I am amazed that they are able to do as much as they do,” he added. “Were it not for their efforts, this case might never have been solved.”
The bottom line is that the sheriff’s office properly handled the case. DNA evidence was collected and forwarded for processing. And, when Hinton was released from jail in 2005, his information was processed in the sex offender registry.
But southeast Louisiana’s escalating crime slowed this investigation by three agonizing years.
Webre said it best when talking about the ongoing challenges faced by the State Police Crime Lab. “If I could, I would double their manpower tomorrow.”
It’s an idea for state lawmakers and the governor to begin considering. Heaven forbid it is ever their daughter or wife waiting for word of her suspected rapist’s fate.