DNA match leads to arrest in rape case

The 15-year-old victim was unable to identify her attacker from nine years ago.
Wednesday, November 8, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 5:19 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 13, 2008

A match to DNA collected nine years ago has resulted in the arrest of a St. Louis man on charges he raped a 15-year-old girl in the bedroom of her family’s home in southwest Columbia.

The teenager reported the rape on the morning of July 19, 1997, but couldn’t describe the assailant because he’d covered her face with a piece of clothing. However, during the investigation, a sample of unidentified DNA was collected and sent to the Missouri State Highway Patrol Lab to be analyzed.

On Oct. 30, the highway patrol lab notified Columbia Police that they had found a match to the 9-year-old DNA sample through the Combined DNA Index System, a state and national DNA database. The sample matched the DNA of Corrie D. Howlett, 36, who lived at 1801 W. Worley St. at the time of the investigation, but has since moved to St. Louis, police said.

“(Howlett) was convicted of a misdemeanor, and it was in his probation agreement that he be required to submit a DNA sample,” said Ken Hammond, sergeant of Columbia Police Major Crimes Unit.

That’s when the lab discovered “a hit,” police said.

Despite the DNA match, Hammond said it was not sufficient probable cause to make an arrest.

Investigators located Howlett in St. Louis and interviewed him about the almost decade-old rape. Hammond said that during the interview, Howlett made statements that implicated him.

Howlett was taken into ­custody shortly thereafter

and arrested on a Boone County warrant on charges of forcible rape and first-degree burglary. He was being held by St. Louis corrections authorities and will eventually be returned to Boone County, police said.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol has been required to collect samples from felons convicted of certain violent crimes, including rape, since 1991 when a Missouri law established the DNA profiling section of the highway patrol laboratory.

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