DNA leads to Janesville arrest in 2000 rape case, police say

DNA helped police make an arrest in a rape case from 2000, according to a news release.

The Janesville Police Department said 53-year-old Kelly L. Baxter was arrested Wednesday after a routine search of DNA led to a hit in the rape case.

“I’ve never heard of a case here at the Janesville Police Department where we’ve been able to solve that many years later,” Lt. Terry Sheridan said. “Certainly with the DNA evidence, it’s probably the first of its kind for us here.”

According to the report, officers responded to a home in the 900 block of Sutherland Avenue to investigate a rape and burglary in the early-morning hours of April 1, 2000. An unknown man entered the home of a then-78-year-old woman and sexually assaulted her. He left after the assault.

According to the report, Baxter’s most recent home address is fewer than 2 miles from where the woman was raped in 2000. It wasn’t clear how long Baxter has lived there.

Various items of evidence were collected from the crime scene, including DNA, which was submitted to the Wisconsin State Crime Lab for analysis, police said. A suspect was never identified and the case eventually went cold after authorities followed up on all investigative leads.

The Janesville Police Department received notification on Jan. 12 from the state crime lab that a routine search of the Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS, revealed a match between the DNA previously submitted by the police department on the 2000 forcible rape case to a Janesville man, Baxter.

Baxter was arrested in August 2014 by the Rock County Sheriff’s Office in connection to an unrelated sexual assault of a child incident, and was convicted in August 2016 of fourth-degree sexual assault. As a result of the conviction, per state law, Baxter’s DNA was collected and submitted in November to the Wisconsin State Crime Lab to be entered into CODIS. The submission of Baxter’s DNA resulted in a match to the 2000 case.

Janesville detectives arrested Baxter Wednesday at the Janesville Police Department for the 2000 sexual assault and burglary.

“It is satisfying to us that here, years later, we can still continue to pursue this and bring who we believe is the suspect in this case to justice,” Sheridan said.

Police said the victim had passed away, but detectives were able to contact her family in the area. The detectives said the family was relieved someone had been identified and arrested for the crime.

Sheridan said police were investigating whether the DNA links Baxter to any other crimes in the area.

“We’re looking into the possibilities,” he said. “At this point, there’s no certain cases in particular, but we’re not ruling anything out.”

Baxter was being held in the Rock County Jail Thursday evening. In court Friday, Baxter was given a $20,000 cash bail for a second degree sexual assault charge and a $10,000 cash bail for a burglary charge. He is scheduled to be in court March 3 at 3 p.m.