Rochester, N.Y. --- On Thursday a Rochester man could be sentenced to fifty years in state prison for breaking into a woman's home in May 2006 and raping her at knifepoint while her baby slept nearby.
Ronell McFadden, 35, was linked to the crime by DNA in September 2006. But he wasn't arrested for six years during which time he remained in our community committing other crimes. McFadden was convicted by a jury on February 1, 2013.
A 13WHAM News Investigation attempted to figure out why this was.
The court transcript (attached) from a November 8, 2012 pre-trial hearing appears to reveal the path McFadden’s case took in the criminal justice system. It describes how the case moved from desk to desk within the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office with little or no action until 2011. It also reveals that a letter dated September, 13, 2006 notified R.P.D. Captain Lynde Johnson and then Monroe County District Attorney Mike Green of the CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) match to “known offender” Ronell McFadden.
The May 2006 Crime
McFadden was convicted of 1st Degree Rape and 1st Degree Criminal Sex Act for the home invasion and rape of woman on Ambrose Street in Rochester. According to a D.A.’s Office news release McFadden “forced his way into the victim’s home where the victim and her baby were sleeping, threatening them both with a knife before raping her.”
That was on May 3rd, 2006 and the victim initially identified another man who was arrested, indicted, but eventually cleared by DNA. Assistant District Attorney Caroline Morrison acknowledged to the court that the CODIS hit for McFadden arrived at the office six days later.
ADA’s Offer 2 Explanations For Delay
The court transcript for a November 2012 pre-trial hearing offers at least two potential explanations as to why McFadden wasn’t arrested in 2006 and why the case appeared to travel from desk to desk with little action.
The Assistant District Attorney prosecuting the case at the time of this hearing was Alyssa Truelove. One of the witnesses was A.D.A. Caroline Morrison.
On the witness stand Morrison explained that she received the case in 2009 and prior to that at least three other prosecutors had the case. She told the court that "at the time I did have a very large case load" and that "I have 40 to 45 other cases that…were taking priority at the time." Morrison also noted than an intern reviewed these cases for her at one point.
Morrison said that in the Violent Felony Bureau "you are handed a case literally every other day" and that handling that case load is "more like dealing with a triage type of thing."
When asked, Morrison said she "took no action until 2011" at which time an investigator for the D.A.’s Office (C.J. Dominic) was sent out to locate the victim in March 2011.
Despite the CODIS match to McFadden Morrison told the court, "I didn't make attempts to locate Mr. McFadden."
Another explanation was argued in pre-trial motion hearings and during this November 2012 proceeding. A.D.A. Alyssa Truelove received the case in January 2012 and was in charge for McFadden’s arrest, indictment, and up to the trial. (A.D.A. Sara VanStrydonck was the trial lawyer.)
A.D.A. Truelove argued to the court that the victim was not “emotionally prepared” to proceed with the case and that was the explanation for the nearly six year delay in prosecution. On Wednesday we asked Truelove why she argued that when the victim claimed that wasn’t the case.
QUESTION: “At this hearing you represented basically that the victim wasn't ready to proceed and she said under oath she was ready to proceed?