Man Charged in 2001 Massachusetts Rape Case, Latest Arrest in Push to Test Old Rape Kits

This is the fourth rape case investigators say they've solved as part of Bristol Count District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn's Untested Rape Kit Initiative

File image of a form for a sexual assault evidence collection kit.
NBC Bay Area

An Attleboro man is accused of raping a 13-year-old girl in Fairhaven more than 20 years ago, a break in the case that came from a long-untested rape kit, the Bristol County District Attorney's Office said.

Patrick Avila, 37, has been indicted by a grand jury on a charge of rape of a child with force in a case from October 2001.

According to the DA's office, the victim in the case, who was 13 at the time, went to a school dance and met up with a 17-year-old, who took her somewhere else and gave her an alcoholic drink. That drink made the victim dizzy and like she might pass out, according to investigators. He then took the victim to a friend's house, then dragged her into a car where she blacked out.

That 17-year-old, identified as Brandon St. Don, would later be charged with rape after a witness found St. Don in a car with the victim, who was naked, raping her. The witness reportedly pulled St. Don off the victim and punched him, then helped the victim to his basement, where he let her sleep.

Investigators allege that Avila was there when the witness helped the victim into the house.

The victim did submit a rape kit at the time, but it was not fully tested for decades, one of more than 1,100 from Bristol County. With the help of a federal grant, that kit, along with many others, are being tested as part of District Attorney Thomas M. Quinn's Untested Rape Kit Initiative.

Resources for victims of sexual assault are available through the National Sexual Violence Resources Center and the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800-656-4673, and Massachusetts provides this list of statewide and resources for sexual assault survivors.

When the kit was tested it was discovered that Avila's DNA was on the oral swabs from the kit. The victim told police she did know Avila at the time, but she did not remember seeing him that night and never consented to sex. Investigators believe Avila raped her in the basement after she had already been raped by St. Don.

This is the fourth rape case investigators say they've solved as part of the initiative.

The DA's office noted that Avila's DNA has been in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) system since 2010. If the kit had been fully tested, these charges could have come 12 years sooner.

I am very pleased our initiative has resulted in criminal charges being brought against another defendant.," Quinn said in a media statement.  "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." 

Massachusetts authorities have been working to get through a significant backlog of rape kits that were never fully tested by the state lab. In 2019, the Bristol County District Attorney's office was given a Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) grant to work on the issue. The first batch of testing didn't begin until April 2021, delayed by the pandemic. The DA's office says all 1,148 untested kits they identified will be tested by the end of January 2023.

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