FIRST ALERT INVESTIGATION: DNA match cracks rape case before time runs out

BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - A Green Bay woman is getting justice more than a decade after she was kidnapped and sexually assaulted.

Tyrone Bester. Photo: Brown County Jail

Brown County prosecutors have charged a man they say is responsible for the attack. The clock had been ticking on this case. The statute of limitations was about to run out.

A First Alert Investigation uncovered how new evidence surfaced in the nick of time.

THE CRIME

It was Oct. 24, 2009. A Green Bay woman got into a fight with her ex-boyfriend and left her west side home in the middle of the night. She told police she was walking on Clinton Street when she was grabbed from behind by a man. He covered her eyes and forced her into a car.

Court records show the victim described how the man sat on her legs and held her arms down. Another person drove them to a building the victim didn't recognize.

The woman is carried into the building and sexually assaulted for two hours while she yells for the man to stop.

The man was wearing a mask and gloves and concealing his identity.

After the the hours-long assault, the man put the victim back into the car. They drove around for a few minutes before he dropped her off along East Mason Street.

The victim walked home and immediately called police.

THE INVESTIGATION

"It's one of the more serious types of assaults that I've encountered," says Det. Dave Graf, Green Bay Police Dept.

Det. Dave Graf didn't work the case in 2009, but he did the follow up with another detective. The investigators only had vague descriptions and no known location of the assault.

"She made a report about this happening. Evidence was collected right then," says Graf.

Graf says a rape kit was collected. That preserved any DNA left by the suspect on the victim.

The kit sat on the shelves of the Green Bay Police Department for more than seven years.

"As to why the kit was not sent, these things fall through the cracks sometimes," says Graf. "It does happen, and I think that's kind of been realized, so I think that's why we're doing this initiative they're doing now."

The Sexual Assault Kit Initiative was launched in 2017 by former Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel. This effort required any untested rape kit in the state to be sent to the Wisconsin State Crime Lab.

The Green Bay unsolved sexual assault case was among them.

Thousands of untested cases caused a backlog of the system. On Oct. 19, 2018--five days short of nine years after the assault--police received a match.

"We got a notice back that there was a hit from a profile that was developed on the SANE [Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner] kit in this case to a subject offender here in Wisconsin," says Graf.

THE SUSPECT

The DNA hit led Det. Graf to 51-year-old Tyrone Bester.

"Being able to finally put a name to a suspect is satisfying," says Graf.

Det. Graf took over the case and tracked down Tyrone Bester. He didn't have to look far. Bester was in the Brown County Jail on a 2015 arrest for Attempted Homicide.

Bester asked for a lawyer in that case and that prevented Det. Graf from talking to him about the sexual assault.

In July of 2018, Bester took a plea deal in the Attempted Homicide case. He was convicted on a lesser charge of 1st Degree Reckless Injury and sentenced to 10 years in state prison.

Days later, Det. Graf arrived at Dodge Correctional Facility to collect Bester's DNA.

"According to Mr. Bester, 'I don't know who she is... I would never do anything like that to a female' and had no explanation as to why his DNA was found on her person," says Graf.

DNA says otherwise. Prosecutors say the sample collected by Graf matches DNA from the victim's rape kit.

"Evidence doesn't lie," says Graf.

In July, Brown County prosecutors filed charges of 1st Degree Sexual Assault and Kidnapping against Bester. That was nine years and nine months after the assault. The statute of limitations runs out after 10 years.

Graf had the rewarding job of finding the victim and breaking the news to her.

"She made comments that she was glad something's being done," says Graf. "So hopefully we'll get some justice for her."

Bester is scheduled to be arraigned on the sexual assault and kidnapping charges in December.

This is the Green Bay Police Department's first case to be charged as part of the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative.