Untested Rape Kit Initiative Results in Indictment Connected to 2001 Fairhaven Rape of 13 Year Old Girl
Bristol County District Attorney’s Office
Thomas M. Quinn III
December 14, 2022
Bristol County District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn’s Untested Rape Kit Initiative has resulted in another indictment connected to a rape from more than two decades ago.
Patrick Avila, 37, of Attleboro has been indicted by a Bristol County Grand Jury on a charge of rape of a child with force in connection to the rape of a 13-year-old girl in Fairhaven in October of 2001.
Avila, who was initially charged earlier this year in Juvenile Court due to his age at the time of the crime, had his case transferred to adult court by a Juvenile Court Judge after a Transfer Hearing was held in September. Since that time, the grand jury indicted him. He was arraigned in Fall River Superior Court Tuesday afternoon and posted $10,000 cash bail. He is due back in court February 7th.
On October 26, 2001, the victim went to a school dance where she later met up with a 17 year old named Brandon St. Don, who was known to her. At some point during the evening, the victim left the dance with St. Don and went to a location where he provided her with alcoholic mixed drinks. After drinking this drink, she became dizzy and felt like passing out. St. Don then took her to a friend’s home on Delano Street, telling her he was taking her to “a safe place.” They eventually arrived at his friend’s house, at which point he dragged her into a car where she blacked out. While she was unconscious in the car, a witness observed St. Don inside the vehicle raping the victim, who was now stripped naked. The witness was upset upon seeing St. Don with the victim, whom he knew to be a child. Upon seeing this, the witness pulled St. Don off of the victim and punched him and forced St. Don to leave the property. Hearing this commotion caused the victim to regain consciousness. When she did, the victim realized that she was cold and naked. The witness gave the victim clothes and helped her to his basement where he allowed her to sleep. Patrick Avila was also present when the victim was discovered naked in the car with St. Don and when she was assisted by the witness into the house.
Based upon witness statements and other evidence, St. Don was charged at the time with the girl’s rape. He was later convicted and served a state prison sentence. Although the victim did submit to a rape kit following the incident, that kit was one of several thousand from throughout the state that was never fully tested by the state lab.
The rape kit was also one of more than 1,100 from Bristol County alone 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 throughout the state, 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.
As part of DA Quinn’s Untested Rape Kit initiative, this previously untested rape kit was recently fully tested by a private lab. The testing revealed that Avila’s DNA (i.e. sperm cells) was found on the oral swabs from the rape kit. The victim has indicated that although she knew who Avila was at that time, she did not have any relationship with him, has no memory of seeing him that night, and never consented to any sexual contact with Avila.
When recently advised that there was evidence of sexual contact with Avila on that date, the victim was shocked and upset. It is now alleged that defendant Avila sexually assaulted the young victim in the basement after she had already been raped by St. Don.
Avila’s DNA had been uploaded into CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) in 2010 as a result of a felony conviction. If the victim’s rape kit had been fully tested, this defendant would have been arrested and charged in connection with this incident 12 years ago. Furthermore, 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. This is now the fourth cold case rape our office has solved as a result of District Attorney Quinn’s Untested Rape Kit Initiative.
“I am very pleased our initiative has resulted in criminal charges being brought against another defendant.,” District Attorney Quinn said. “The victims and law enforcement had a right to have these kits fully tested. We look forward to completing the testing of all of the rape kits in Bristol County within the next month or two. I am very proud that our office identified this very serious problem and did something about it.”
The revelation that so many rape kits throughout the state were not being fully tested began 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 be fully tested by the private lab by the end of January.
All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
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