SALT LAKE CITY — An inmate at the Utah State Prison has been charged in a 7-year-old rape case.
David Zachary Swigart, 53, was charged Thursday in 3rd District Court with aggravated sexual assault and rape, both first-degree felonies, and forcible sexual abuse, a second-degree felony.
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said the case highlights the importance of both committing to the testing of shelved rape kits, and the need for good old-fashioned police work.
On Sept. 16, 2010, a woman was walking to a bus stop in South Salt Lake when a man approached her from behind "and started making comments about her appearance," according to charging documents.
"The male told (the woman) that she had to go to a nearby parking lot with him or he would 'pop' her," the charges state. "He threatened that he had a gun and that he would kill her if she didn't do what he wanted."
Swigart took the woman behind a business, raped her and "threatened to kill her if she screamed," court documents state.
The man ran off after the attack. The woman was treated by doctors and DNA samples were collected as evidence. But the rape kit needed a "confirmation swab," or a second sample to test, Gill said, and got put aside. No one was arrested.
In 2013, police investigated another rape case with similarities to the 2010 attack. Prosecutors and South Salt Lake police detective Joe Sutera submitted the DNA sample collected from the 2010 case to have it compared with the new case. Although Swigart was determined not to be responsible for the 2013 incident, the investigation did result in a "hit" in the DNA national database used by law enforcement.
But at that point, Gill said authorities had lost contact with the woman. Sutera was able to track her down and she said she wanted to continue pursuing prosecution, Gill said. A search warrant for more DNA was executed on Swigart in 2016 for a confirmation swab.
A couple of weeks ago, on Oct. 20, the test results came back as a match, he said.
"The detective needs to be commended for continuing to pursue this," Gill said Thursday.
The district attorney said the case is also important to highlight the "renewed committment to go back and revisit old (rape) kits” in the law enforcement community.
All rape kits need to have a conclusion one way or the other and not just sit on a shelf, he said.Comment on this story
"We can’t rely on 'happy accidents' all the time," as happened in this case, Gill said.
Utah lawmakers this year approved more than $1 million to go toward speeding up the process of testing more than 500 backlogged rape kits. The new Utah State Crime Lab is expected to implement new efforts aimed at cutting down the time it takes to test rape kits to just 30 days beginning in 2018.
According to court records, Swigart has an extensive criminal history. He has been incarcerated at Utah State Prison since 2011 serving a sentence for attempted aggravated sexual assault.