For six months Prince George’s County Police searched for a man who assaulted and robbed an 84-year-old woman in her Suitland apartment and for six months police had no answers.

The alleged attack took place on Feb. 1 in the 4400 block of Arnold Road. The woman, who has since celebrated her 85th birthday, had been punched several times, had $50 taken from her. When officers finally arrived to the scene apparently 24 hours later, they found a beaten and bruised woman still on the floor, but happy to see help.

“She was a little sore. She had some bruises and some abrasions,” said Captain Genia Reeves, assistant commander of the Prince George’s Police Department Criminal Investigations Division. “But she was just happy that someone had found her and was able to help her up off of the floor.”

There was still work to do for police however. The woman told them she’d never seen the suspect before and the trail was growing cold as police didn’t arrive until 24 hours after the incident had taken place. The crime was turning into a real test for the county’s crime scene investigators.

However, after the investigation began, police stumbled on to a key piece of evidence.
“The robbery unit as well as our crime scene investigation responded to the location. They processed the scene and on the balcony they recovered blood that was left by the suspect when the victim bit him in an effort to free herself,” said Reeves, assistant commander of the Prince George’s Police Department Criminal Investigations Division. “That evidence was collected and submitted to our DNA lab and to our Combined DNA Index System.”

A match on the DNA results came back on Aug. 15 according to Reeves and on Aug. 30, 56-year-old Rodney William Blanton was arrested in his home in the 3900 block of Suitland Road.
Reeves said it took a while for results to come back because tests have to be run twice before an arrest warrant is issued.

“Once we get a notice that it is a confirmation with the suspect, we in turn have to re-confirm before we will actually obtain an arrest warrant for the person,” she said. “It’s not uncommon that it’s a long process, but it’s a detailed process so that we can ensure that the right person has been arrested.”

The result was a test of the police department’s desire to use more forensic evidence when investigating crimes. Assistant Chief of Police Kevin Davis told the AFRO that the department wanted to move away from confession-based investigations, which is why it created a standalone unit for forensics called the Bureau of Forensic Science and Intelligence.

“We need to prosecute people with better and more forensic evidence,” Davis said. “A confession is certainly one thing, but we want the DNA, we want the hair fiber, we want the fingerprints and we want all the other things that go into making a prosecution a good one and a successful one.”

Blanton was charged with first and fourth degree burglary, robbery and theft, as well as first- and second-degree assault. He is currently being held without bond at the Prince George’s Department of Corrections in Upper Marlboro. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Oct. 1. 

George Barnette

Special to the AFRO