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Police Charge Man With 1991 Rape

On Nov. 2, 1991, around 4 a.m., a 19-year-old Chantilly woman was attacked by two unknown males as she walked in the parking lot of the Shenandoah Crossing Apartments in Chantilly. Then, say Fairfax County police, they raped her and fled.

YEARS PASSED, but no one was ever arrested for the crime — until now. One suspect is still at large, but charged with this offense and four others related to this case is Donald Harmon Roper, 39, of 5518 Leavells Crossing Drive in Fredericksburg.

In a May 6 affidavit for a warrant to obtain a sample of Roper's DNA from his cheek cavity, police Det. Mark P. Pfeiffer presented details of the 1991 criminal case against him. He wrote that the victim reported the attack to police after it happened.

According to Pfeiffer, "The two suspects forced the [woman] back into her vehicle, and one drove to an unknown location while the [woman] was in the backseat with the other. Both suspects raped and sodomized her."

She described her two assailants as black males who wore masks and gloves. Det. R. J. Cline spoke with her at Inova Fairfax Hospital where a sexual-assault exam was performed on her and a physical-evidence recovery kit (PERK) was created.

He then submitted the evidence obtained, as well as the woman's blouse, underpants, bra and jeans, for testing at the Division of Forensic Science Northern Laboratory in Fairfax. According to the certificate of analysis dated Dec. 16, 1991 and signed by the examiner, Karen Ambrozy, sperm were detected on the underpants, as well as on the victim, herself.

But nothing further happened to this evidence for more than 13 years — until Roper was convicted of a felony in another jurisdiction. As a matter of course, everyone convicted of felony offenses in Virginia has a sample of his or her DNA taken and entered into the Virginia DNA Data Bank.

So, after Roper's unrelated felony conviction elsewhere, Pfeiffer took the PERK kit obtained from the 1991 victim to the state's Division of Forensic Sciences — just as Cline had done, more than a decade earlier. On Aug. 12, 2004, he submitted it, plus the victim's blouse, for testing.

Forensic scientist Ambrozy was still working there, and when she re-examined this evidence for human DNA, the police struck apparent paydirt. She presented her findings in a certificate of analysis dated Feb. 24, 2005.

Wrote Pfeiffer: "A DNA profile foreign to the [victim] was detected and was entered into the Virginia DNA Data Bank, resulting in a profile being found consistent with Donald Harmon Roper."

In his affidavit, the detective requested another sample of Roper's DNA be taken for "further analysis." However, the legal wheels had already begun turning in his case, a few weeks earlier.

On April 18, a Fairfax County grand jury indicted Roper on five charges — one count of rape, two counts of forcible sodomy and one count of abduction with intent to defile and one count of robbery. Circuit Court Judge Gaylord Finch then issued a bench warrant for his arrest.

Roper was living at the Fredericksburg address when Fairfax County police Det. Joanne Studer arrested him on the outstanding warrants for the 1991 crimes. If convicted, he could receive 20 years to life in prison on the abduction charge and five years to life in prison for each of the other offenses.

He was booked into the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center on May 6, and a sample of DNA from his saliva and cheek lining was obtained that same day. Roper is being held without bond and is scheduled to have a trial date set for him on Friday.