Thanks to DNA profile, a 14-year-old rape case ended Wednesday in Crawford County Circuit Court.
James Edward Willis, 43, of Springfield, Mo., pleaded guilty to a rape which occurred March 13, 2000.
Judge Gary R. Cottrell sentenced Willis to 35 years in the Arkansas Department of Correction and ordered Willis to have no contact with the victim, who was in court Wednesday and told Cottrell she approved of the plea-agreement.
Prosecuting Attorney Marc McCune pointed out Willis will have to serve a minimum of 24 and one-half years in prison before he is eligible for parole.
"In 2000, the defendant, a total stranger to the victim, broke into her house and raped her in the middle of the night," McCune said.
The then 24-year-old victim was asleep in her bed with her three children when she noticed her alarm clock flicker before the electricity went out at the Arkansas Street residence, according to a Van Buren Police Department report. The suspect assaulted the woman and then left the scene, according to the report.
DNA evidence was obtained from the woman’s clothes and a cigarette butt found in the front yard and entered into a database by Sgt. Daniel Perry and detectives exhausted all leads in the case. A "John Doe" warrant was issued April 21, 2005, for the DNA profile found at the scene.
"After several years of eliminating possible suspects through DNA testing, Perry and I issued the ‘John Doe’ warrant based on the DNA profile obtained from items collected at the crime scene to avoid any statute of limitations problems," McCune said.
In July 2013, Willis submitted DNA while in prison in Missouri for non-support.
"His DNA profile matched the DNA collected at our crime scene," McCune aid. "He was arrested and brought to Crawford County to finally face charges."
Willis lived in Van Buren in 2000, according to police reports.
His jury trial was scheduled to begin Monday.