DNA testing leads to arrest in Wellington rape case

Published: Wednesday, May 9 2012 10:48 a.m. MDT

WELLINGTON, Carbon County — Lee Barry's gruff exterior crumbled Wednesday when he was asked for details about the violent rape of a 20-year-old woman.

"He kicked in the front door," the Wellington police chief said before his voice gave out and he bowed his head to wipe away tears.

"He kicked in the door," Barry began again after composing himself, "with enough force that he took the door off the hinges when he made entry into her apartment. He had a knife and he threatened her with it."

Police believe Dwaine Stacey Shaw was the knife-wielding man in a clown mask who broke into the woman's apartment at 3 a.m. on Jan. 13 and raped her.

That belief has now been backed up by DNA evidence, according to Barry.

But it took nearly four months for the Utah State Crime Lab to provide Wellington police with the test results that finally gave them the evidence they needed to arrest Shaw on Tuesday.

"The biggest stumbling block in the case was the crime lab is so overwhelmed and they are receiving not enough funding to process evidence," Barry said.

"They've been given an extra technician this year to process Spice and things like that," he added. "But they need extra technicians to process fingerprints, serology and DNA tests."

Jay Henry, director of the Utah State Crime Lab, said the field of forensic science has become more complex over the years. That reality, coupled with budget cuts that have reduced staffing, contributes to a turnaround time that's "a lot longer and a lot greater than we would like here in the laboratory."

DNA testing makes up about 10 percent of the crime lab's work, according to Henry, and the average turnaround time is 77 days.

"You can only do what you can with what you have," he said.

The lab works closely with law enforcement to understand the urgency of each case, the director said, and prioritizes cases based on whether they involve crimes against persons or property crimes. 

"Crimes against persons are our primary concern, our primary mission," Henry said, noting that if the case involves an imminent threat to public safety, "that goes to the top."

Barry isn't critical of the crime lab or its work, he's just frustrated that state lawmakers aren't providing the lab with the funding it needs.

"(Shaw's arrest) was an arrest that could have happened several months earlier, if there wasn't a backlog at our state crime lab," he said.

The chief said he is grateful to have Shaw behind bars, as is the woman Shaw is accused of attacking.

"She was extremely relieved," he said, getting emotional again.

"She said she would be able to sleep through the night for the first time in a long time and feel safe, knowing he's in jail."

Shaw remains in the Carbon County Jail, where he is being held for investigation of aggravated rape, aggravated forcible sodomy, aggravated sexual assault, aggravated kidnapping and aggravated burglary.

No formal charges have been filed.

Geoff Liesik

Twitter: GeoffLiesik

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