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ROBERT QUINN CONVICTED IN 27 YEAR OLD RAPE CASE
On March 5, 1988 after 11:00 p.m., a ten year old girl living on Elkhart's west side was asleep on the couch in the living room of her home where she had been watching television. Her older brother had already gone to bed and her parents were out for the evening. The child was awakened by a loud crash and discovered that an unknown man had broken in through the front door. The assailant quickly covered her head and face with a coat and abducted her. He then placed her into a waiting car and drove her to a wooded area where he proceeded to rape her. Following the rape, he returned the girl to her neighborhood and proceeded to flee the area.
The traumatized child went back into her home and into her room, where she was discovered by her parents when they arrived home. The child was taken to the emergency room where it was discovered that she had suffered considerable injury in connection to her sexual assault.
The Elkhart County Sheriff's Department commenced an investigation including the collection of evidence which may have contained biological material of the assailant. Those items were transported to the Indiana State Police lab in anticipation of testing, however, the investigation at that time was unable to lead to an arrest and the case subsequently grew cold.
In 2011, victim, now an adult, made contact with the Elkhart County Sheriff's Department seeking information about the case. Diana Hoke, Administrative Assistant to the Sheriff, was able to locate materials from the original file and determine that Prosecutor Investigator Gary Kenawell had worked on the case in 1988 when he was a detective for the Sheriff's Department. Investigator Kenawell received and reviewed the available information, and recalling the case, he received authorization from the Prosecuting Attorney to conduct further investigation. Kenawell was able to determine that the several samples submitted to ISP for testing in 1988 were still at the lab and that sufficient biological material was present to warrant sampling.
The sample was taken for preliminary DNA analysis and it was determined that the samples included the DNA of the victim as well as an unknown male. Kenawell requested that the ISP submit the sample for comparison. In the late fall of 2012, the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney received notice in the form of an "investigative lead" that a possible match had been found. Based upon the information received, a warrant was requested to secure a "suspect sample" for DNA comparison. Once a confirmatory suspect sample is obtained and submitted to the lab its DNA profile is identified.
On February 13, 2013, laboratory results were received indicating that to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty the DNA of the unknown male assailant from March 5, 1988, was Robert E. Quinn, date of birth 10/09/62, an inmate in the Indiana Department of Correction. Quinn is serving a sentence on a parole violation from a 2005 child molestation charge out of Elkhart County.
Based upon this new information and the subsequent investigation the prosecuting attorney filed the following charges against Robert E Quinn in March of 2013: Rape, a Class A Felony; Child Molesting, a Class B Felony; and Criminal Confinement, a Class B Felony.
On December 15, 2014, the morning of the trial, Quinn pled guilty to the charge of Rape, a Class A felony as the jury waited patiently to be called in. In another hearing room in the historic Elkhart County Courthouse in Goshen, the defendant was providing a factual basis in vivid detail. His former victim witnessed his admissions and description of how he abducted her as a child, merely 4 foot tall compared to his 6 foot frame, struck her in the face to keep her quiet, covered her eyes with his coat to conceal his identity, and proceeded to rape her while she cried. Quinn further conceded that he caused serious bodily injury to the child during the rape as her internal injuries required surgery and several days hospitalization for recovery.
Although Quinn pled guilty to the Rape charge, the morning of the trial the defense counsel filed a challenge to Counts 1 and 3 (Child Molesting and Criminal Confinement) alleging a violation of the statutory Period of Limitation for B felony charges. Judge Biddlecome entered a judgment of conviction regarding the Rape charge, and set the remaining counts for an evidentiary hearing on Wednesday, December 17, 2014.
During the bench trial the defense argued that the original investigation had not been sufficiently diligent, and that an exception to the Period of Limitation for B felony charges was not appropriate in this case. Prosecuting attorneys proceeded to support their claim that the evidence supporting the B felony charges was unavailable at the time of the original investigation. The judge heard the arguments and found Quinn guilty of Child Molesting and Criminal Confinement.
On Thursday, February 5th Elkhart County Superior Court 3 Judge George Biddlecome sentenced Robert Quinn to 53 years in the Indiana Department of Correction. During the sentencing hearing the victim spoke about the effect the attack had on her life and her family. As an adult she moved out of the area for fear that if she encountered her attacker in the future, they would know who she was, but she would not recognize them. While she had resigned herself to not knowing his identity, she now has a great sense of relief that she can put a face and a name to the experience. While her faith and deliberate choices have helped her move forward and retake control of her life, she has never been able to reconcile why this happened to her.
The victim's mother also shared that she carries a picture of her daughter from when she was 10, but that it is difficult for her to look at the picture and think about how open and happy she was before attack as her daughter became traumatized and withdrawn in its aftermath. In her comments at sentencing Judge Biddlecome addressed the victim directly, reassuring her that she bore no responsibility for the attack.