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DNA links man to three rapes in Harrisburg

Updated: Wednesday, March 5 2014, 10:43 PM CST
Reported by Ewa Roman:

HARRISBURG -- An alleged serial rapist is behind bars in Dauphin County thanks to DNA evidence linking him to the sexual assault of three women in Harrisburg.

The alleged acts happened in Harrisburg’s Allison Hill area last summer and fall.

CBS 21 found out how crucial DNA test kits are in cases like this one and we wanted to know the size of the kit testing backlog, and what‘s being done to  change things.

Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico tells us that there is a back log of DNA kits waiting to be tested, because not enough people are on the job.

Right now, he’s working to get more funding to change that.

“There’s been a move to have more funding put towards rape kits and processing of DNA , we can get those done more rapidly,” stated Ed Marsico, Dauphin County District Attorney.

DA Marsico says three DNA matches got an accused serial rapist in Harrisburg off the streets. Jyrell Selvey, 23, is accused of raping three women last year.

Police say he robbed two of them. One was 17 and the other two were in their 20s.

Police say he threaten them with a knife.

One of the women told police she was leaving Od’s Place at North 15th and Market Streets when she was attacked.

Another told police Selvey attacked her around 12:30 a.m., in the area of North 15th and Forster Streets. He took her to the cemetery nearby.

“This was a case, where the victims were courageous and brave and were able to have the wherewithal to get information from him to preserve physical evidence that linked him to these crimes,” explained Marsico.

The first alleged rape happened last June, but DA Marsico says Selvey’s DNA wasn’t in the system yet.
So it took a while to match it to the victims’.

Then once you have the DNA, Marsico says, processing it can take a lot of time.

“DNA becomes a critical part of how we can protect our community,” said Kristen Houser, Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, VP of Public Relations.

Kristen Houser worries that the DNA can be destroyed or damaged if not tested more quickly.

Recently, PCAR’s medical advocate reached out to labs in Pennsylvania to find out just how back-logged they are.

Kristen read the answers she received in an email:

“We don’t know what may or may not be sitting in police departments that hasn’t been sent to the lab (for various reasons), but through our contacts with the PSP labs and the Allegheny and Philly labs, we have not been informed of any significant backlogs at our PA forensic laboratories,” said Houser.

Kristen adds that it may be some months before a kit gets analyzed, but it’s not years and years, which has been the case in other states & cities who are pushing to “end the backlog”.

As for the victims of Jyrell Selvey, DA Marsico believes there are more of them out there and he hopes they come forward.

There is state legislation, sponsored by Senator Dominic Pileggi, which would allow police to collect DNA samples on the spot of an arrest.  But that has been tabled for now.

If you are a victim of sexual abuse, the following link from PCAR will point you to a sexual violence resource center in your community:
DNA links man to three rapes in Harrisburg

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