Raymont Hopewell entered the state prison system on April 11, 2004, for attempting to sell $20 worth of cocaine to an undercover police officer. Under Maryland law, authorities should have taken a sample of his DNA to compare against evidence collected from unsolved crimes. Had the DNA test been done, it would have matched evidence found at the scenes of two unsolved crimes on Baltimore’s west side: the 1999 rape and murder of Constance Wills, 60, and the 2002 rape and murder of Sarah Shannon, 88. But Hopewell’s DNA was not taken in 2004, and the matches were not made. Instead, after five months in state custody, Hopewell escaped without providing a sample, says the Baltimore Sun.
The next year, police say, while Hopewell was free, he would kill three more people, assault four others and rape one woman before he was arrested in September 2005. His DNA was finally taken and, for the first time, police began to connect him to five killings over six years. Hopewell, 35, will be tried in those crimes in September. A conviction would raise troubling questions. If authorities had collected his DNA in 2004, could the later violent crimes have been prevented? And if the police had performed DNA analysis promptly after a 2005 killing, wouldn’t they have known that a serial killer and rapist of elderly women was on the loose?