Minneapolis rape case charged 12 years later after DNA evidence went untested for years

Hennepin County prosecutors have filed rape charges against a Minneapolis man more than a decade after an armed attack on two women.

The case file shows critical DNA evidence sat untested for years.

Now, one of those alleged victims is speaking out, sharing her story of torment and frustration with the criminal justice system.

"Within the first five years, it took a lot, it took a lot from me. Like mentally, emotionally," she said. FOX 9 is not publicly identifying her to protect her privacy and security.

She reports surviving a frightening sexual assault at gunpoint on June 26, 2010, when a male suspect approached her and her friend at a Minneapolis bus stop. They would end up terrorized at a Richfield park near 63rd and Nicollet Avenues. She still hears her assailant’s commands in her head.

"He was just saying things like, don't. If you scream, I'm going to shoot her, because my friend was a little scared and she was loud. And he was like, if you scream, I am going to shoot her. And he was telling me, if you run away, I'm going to shoot her. And so, we both were just like standing, you know, like, okay, we were young. It was just like, just let’s get out of the situation. Once the situation is over, we'll be able to worry about the rest. But right now, we didn't have the time to try and be, you know, tough."

After the attack, the alleged victim recalled the assailant telling the friends to close their eyes and he took off.

The pair then reported the assault to the Minneapolis Police Department.

At the hospital, they submitted to rape kit examinations and brought investigators back to the park where additional suspect DNA evidence was collected off the ground.

The case file was then submitted to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension for testing. The woman at the time was confident authorities would quickly find the man responsible.

"You got his DNA that same day," she told FOX 9 Reporter Paul Blume during an interview in her Twin Cities area apartment. "It's not like they waited or it deteriorated or they didn't have anything on him because they've had the DNA since that exact night."

What happened next has left the woman bewildered for years. The evidence was never tested.

According to court filings, the BCA learned the women had had sex with known partners before the assault, and the bureau wanted to eliminate that male DNA from the suspect’s.

When they asked for the additional information, MPD investigators reportedly said, they were now unable to track down the victims.

The woman admits, in the moment, she gave a bogus name because she had an active arrest warrant and did not want to get in trouble, but she insists she and her friend could have easily been located in the days and weeks that followed. She also believes there was no excuse not to just run the DNA tests.

"The DNA of the suspect was on both of us, and on the ground. So if you got what was on the ground and you got what was on us, that is the perfect link. It had absolutely nothing to do with previous partners," she concluded.

Flash forward to 2019 when the BCA flagged this case as part of an initiative to complete testing on sexual assault kits that had languished on evidence shelves across Minnesota.

Last year, the Hennepin County Attorney’s office finally asked the bureau to run the tests. It is unclear why they did so 11 years later. But there was a suspect hit. His name -- James Andrew Works, 49 years old, living just south of East Lake Street in Minneapolis.

Works is now charged with two counts of 1st-degree sexual assault and 2 counts of kidnapping.

His alleged victim said, "I just feel like they need to take sexual assault more seriously. They don't. A lot of times they blame the victim, and a lot of times the victim is afraid to come forward."

Works made his first court appearance on November 7.

According to the charges, investigators learned he was named as a suspect in several other Minneapolis sex assault cases, often meeting women online and making arrangements to meet using false names.

His public defender countered, there is more to this story and that the women in the 2010 case may not be telling the "complete truth."

A judge set the defendant’s bail at $75,000 with conditions that include electronic monitoring should he get out. He is due back in court on December 7. Prosecutors would not comment on the case telling FOX 9 the details of the ongoing investigation are "very sensitive."

Separately, as FOX 9 previously reported several years ago, there was a backlog of nearly 3,500 untested sex assault kits across the state. The BCA reports significant headway, that the number is now under 100 with all the testing expected to be completed early next year.