GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Detectives are hoping that new DNA technology will tell them which identical twin raped a woman in Grand Rapids 15 years ago.
In November 1999, the then-26-year-old woman was walking to her car after a night class at Kendall College of Art and Design downtown when she was attacked by a stranger.
Five years later, the Grand Rapids Police Department believed it had solved the case when DNA tests identified a suspect: Jerome Cooper. The Twin Lakes man is a former high school track coach who had been convicted of raping a girl years earlier in Muskegon County.
Then police learned Cooper had an identical twin named Tyrone Cooper, also convicted of sexually assaulting a girl in Twin Lakes.
Tests could not differentiate their DNA.
“Between the two (DNA) profiles, it’s a given that one of the two did it,” GRPD Capt. Jeffrey Hertel told 24 Hour News 8 on Thursday.
But both denied it — even when detectives put them together in a room — and police couldn’t eliminate either as a suspect.
At the time, it was believed to be the first case of its kind in the U.S.
“In the past, the technology has not been able to differentiate between the two of them,” Hertel said. “Now we have a company that is saying it is possible that they can do it.”
So police in February got a search warrant to get a new DNA sample from Jerome Cooper, who is living in Muskegon Heights.
They say they hope to get his brother’s DNA soon. He’s serving prison time for drunk driving in Illinois.
GRPD plans to send both samples to the Center for Advance Forensic DNA in North Carolina, along with the DNA left behind by the suspect at the scene of the crime.
Police say the lab contacted them, saying it believes its test could pinpoint genetic mutations in the DNA and identify the rapist.
“They’re looking for that subtle difference that science hasn’t been able to do for us,” Hertel said. “We’ve been patiently waiting with this file open, knowing and hoping that science would catch up to this case and we can solve it for the victim and for the community.”
He said detectives have kept in touch with the victim, who is now in her 40s.
“She’s very much interested in pursuing this case. She knows all the dynamics, the two suspects who are involved, she’s fully engaged in helping us solve this,” Hertel said.
A similar case in France is leading to similar tests. DNA tests have identified one set of identical twins as suspects in the rapes of six women in southern France in late 2012, according to published reports.
While police try to determine which one was responsible, they have locked up both.