In Centre County, the arrest warrant in a decades old rape case is facing new scrutiny in court.
Police say a criminal complaint, filed in 2000, led them to last October’s arrest of Scott Williams, accused of attacking a woman from behind, raping her, and leaving her barely alive along South Pugh Street in State College.
Police say the assault occurred in May of 1995 and a crucial factor in the arrest was DNA evidence recovered at the crime scene and from the victim.
With no suspect identified at the time, what is known as a “John Doe” warrant was filed.
For the arrest of “John Doe,” he was identified as the individual with the DNA profile that had been developed.
Investigators then took that warrant to then Centre County DA Ray Gricar, who approved it for filing.
A “John Doe” filing is now more common, but at the time, it was one of the first in the country.
The filing of that “John Doe” warrant got picked up by the Associated Press and National Press, and detectives then began receiving numerous calls from Special Victims units across the country, and east coast, resulting in those types of warrants being used in countless cases since then.
This week, in Centre County court, the then lead State College police detective in the case, Thomas Jordan, was back in the courtroom.
He is now a senior Magisterial District Judge, but for this hearing, he was in the witness chair, answering questions for more than an hour about the initial 1995 investigation and the warrant.
It was the first pre-trial hearing in case, after delays spurred by a lengthy challenge to the case’s evidence which were filed by Scott Williams’ attorneys.
Jordan talked about another similar attack on a woman, just a few blocks away, just a few days before, in 1995. That case remains unsolved.
He also discussed initial suspects and admitted that Williams was nowhere on the police radar screen back then.
He says that went to the FBI and other DNA experts and finally, with the 5-year statute of limitations about to expire for filing charges, decided on the “John Doe” warrant filing in 2000.
Williams’ attorneys claim the warrant doesn’t meet legal standards, and if it is dismissed, most likely so would the charges against Williams.
Williams maintains his innocence, and more hearings are scheduled in December and January.