July 28, 2016 DECATUR Rape kits are shown in the secure vault at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Thursday, July 28, 2016. After state law changed July 1 to require hospitals and law enforcement agencies to account for rape kits they still had, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation got a stunning call from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. There were 205 rape kits from examinations of children at its three hospitals since 2006 that had never been picked up by law enforcement and taken to the state Crime Lab to be analyzed. KENT D. JOHNSON/KDJOHNSON@AJC.COM
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Man charged with multiple rapes after lost DNA evidence

DNA evidence, newly tested after sitting for more than a decade at Grady Memorial Hospital, has led authorities to a federal inmate they say is a serial rapist.

A Fulton County grand jury on Thursday returned an indictment against Dandre Shabazz linking him to 15 rapes between December 2001 and May 2005. Shabazz has been behind bars on armed robbery charges since 2006.

The problem with untested rape kits was discovered in 2015, when The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Grady, the state’s largest hospital, had stored as many as 1,351 rape kits and in file cabinets and withheld them from police.

At least 130 of the kits involved victims who wanted to report they had been sexually assaulted. Some involved young patients at Hughes Spalding when the two hospitals were affiliated.

The indictment alleges that Shabazz, 54 drove up on the women — all  between the ages of 15 and 22 — as they were walking alone at night. He then either lured them into his car or forced them in and assaulted them at parks or abandoned houses, the indictment said.

He did not use a condom so investigators were able to retrieve DNA evidence.

But that evidence was one of the kits stored at Grady and never collected by law enforcement.

Rep. Scott Holcomb (D-Atlanta) shakes hands after the House passed the rape kit legislation he pushed in 2016 . Ben Gray / bgray@ajc.com
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Following the AJC’s report, the state Legislature responded by passing  “The Pursuing Justice for Rape Victims Act,” which required law enforcement officials to collect rape kits from hospitals within 96 hours of the tests. It also required law enforcement agencies to send to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation any stored rape kits so the evidence could be analyzed.

“I expected we would find serial rapists and I think there are likely others that will be identified,” said Rep. Scott Holcomb, D-Atlanta, a sponsor of the legislation.

“The victims are finally getting the justice that they deserved a decade ago and this shows that the testing of the backlog was absolutely necessary and that it’s making a difference.”

In addition to the kits from Grady, another 2,476 old rape kits had to be tested.

The GBI’s Division of Forensic Science is expected to clear out the old rape kits by the first of next year, freeing it to then concentrate on new criminal cases coming in for analysis.