- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
A Charles County grand jury has indicted a state inmate for the cold case rape and armed robbery of a La Plata woman more than 26 years ago. She was 22 at the time of the crime.
Last month, the FBI matched saliva samples taken from Joseph Louis Herbert Jr., 55, at the state prison in Jessup to a DNA profile created from evidence collected after the woman reported being raped on Aug. 23, 1985, according to court papers.
Early that morning, a woman parked on Somerset Street told patrol officers who had stopped to inspect her vehicle that she had been making a deposit at the Maryland Bank and Trust in La Plata when a man walked up and pointed a gun at her, charging papers state.
The gunman demanded her car keys and, fearing for her life, she handed them over. The robber then drove her to the Hardee’s fast-food restaurant in La Plata, where she worked, and demanded she open the restaurant, which had closed for the evening, the records state.
Once inside, the man raped her, she told detectives.
Police went to the restaurant and found it had been burglarized. The owner reported $800 had been stolen from registers, court papers state.
An examination at Physicians Memorial Hospital — now Civista Medical Center — in La Plata found semen inside the woman and on her undergarments, according to charging documents. Lab results tested positive for semen and were submitted to the FBI for further analysis.
The evidence was returned to the Charles County Sheriff’s Office on May 6, 1986, the records state.
Ten years later, in June 2006, forensic technicians with the sheriff’s office took the woman’s rape kit with the semen samples and other material and some of her clothing to the FBI’s forensic lab in Quantico, Va., where a DNA profile of her attacker was created and entered into a federal database.
The FBI contacted a local detective June 24 to report that the DNA profile had been matched to Herbert, who according to online court records lived in Mechanicsville before being sentenced Nov. 23, 2010, in St. Mary’s County court to one year in prison for marijuana possession.
Detectives obtained a search warrant authorizing the collection of oral DNA samples from Herbert on Aug. 24, charging papers state.
The samples were taken to the FBI lab in Quantico and on Feb. 7 were confirmed a match for the DNA profile created from the 1985 rape kit.
An arrest warrant was issued for Herbert on Feb. 18 but recalled following his indictment Friday.
Herbert has been charged with first-degree rape, armed robbery, theft of more than $300 and kidnapping.
His arrest is the latest to come as a result of a Charles County Sheriff’s Office’s task force that in 2006 began looking for new evidence in old cases.
“We never forget about crime victims,” sheriff’s spokeswoman Diane Richardson said in an email. “In 2006, the CCSO initiated a project in which our forensic specialists reviewed thousands of cold cases to see if any of the old evidence could be re-submitted for analysis using today’s newer technology. Since then, and with the help of detectives from the Criminal Investigations Division, many cases have been solved and several violent criminal offenders have been charged.”