Communications Foul-Up Leaves Rape Suspect Free


Ropes and scarves the rapist had used as binding dangled from a victim’s body as the Atlanta woman fled her bungalow for a neighbor’s house. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution says her fear was so gripping that she never spent another night in the house where she was raped. Four months later, DNA evidence led to the arrest of a suspect.

Unfortunately, police discovered that the suspect would have been behind bars May 6, 2003, the night of the rape, if not for a law enforcement foul-up. Billy Joe Wilson, 39, an armed robber, drug dealer, and suspect in an earlier rape, was free because of a bungled 2002 telephone call between Clayton County’s two law enforcement agencies – the Sheriff’s Department and the county Police Department. The agencies’ failure to communicate on evidence from a 2001 rape allowed Wilson to remain free.

The two cannot agree on who is to blame. In an effort to put the dispute to rest, one central figure took a lie-detector test. The sheriff’s crime scene unit was supposed to have called the police detectives squad Oct. 10, 2002, with the news that DNA evidence made Wilson the suspect in the 2001 rape. If police had then arrested Wilson in 2002, he would have been behind bars the night of the 2003 Atlanta rape.

Police say they never received the message. The sheriff’s deputy who insists he made the call, Sgt. Fred Lewis, says he cannot remember who answered the phone at the police detectives division. Lewis failed to record the person’s name in the case notes.


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