On March 5, 2004, a woman was nursing her five-week-old daughter when she heard a knock at the front door. A man asked about cutting lumber from the adjacent property, then displayed a gun and forced his way in.
The victim said that the man retrieved a knife from the kitchen and ordered her to go to the bedroom. There, the assailant forced the victim to engage in oral sex and unprotected vaginal intercourse, followed by intercourse using a condom. Afterwards, the assailant asked for all of the victim’s money. The victim replied that she only had $25, so the assailant forced her to drive herself, her baby, and the assailant to an ATM to withdraw more money. The assailant was still armed with both the gun and knife. After telling the victim to swear that she would not tell anyone what happened, the assailant left. The victim called her husband, who then called the police.
When the police arrived, they took a statement from the victim and searched the house as well as the surrounding area. The victim was later taken to the hospital for a sexual assault evaluation. During the examination, the victim provided another statement with details not included in the initial report. She said that when the assailant first entered the house, he put on plastic, food service gloves which he wore throughout the assault. The victim also said that when she and the assailant struggled after returning to the house, the assailant cut his pinky finger with the knife and she could see blood inside the glove. Finally, the victim described the assailant as being a black male, 5’7”-5’8” and about 120 pounds, noting that he was not much bigger than her.
It is not entirely clear why Terron, a 6’1” and 155-pound high school football player, was an initial suspect. When law enforcement came to his house and asked him to come to the station, he agreed to go, but said he had to return his dog to his grandfather’s house first. While doing so, the dog nipped Terron’s pinky finger. Terron recalled the deputy saying, “he got you, didn’t he?”
Terron was taken to the police station and questioned by law enforcement. Detectives held up a video cassette and told Terron that they had him on video at the ATM. Terron completely denied any involvement and insisted that he had not even left the neighborhood that day, and certainly had not raped and robbed anyone. Nevertheless, law enforcement arrested Terron and charged him with rape, robbery, kidnapping, and breaking and entering. As part of the arrest, Terron provided blood, hair, and saliva samples.
Three days later, a pair of plastic gloves with blood in one finger was discovered in a ditch near the victim’s home. The victim’s husband claimed that he let their dog out and the dog immediately went to the ditch along the road in front of the house. The husband followed the dog and saw the gloves lying on top of the grass in the ditch. The husband called law enforcement, and detectives came and collected the gloves. The ditch where the gloves were discovered was part of the area that law enforcement previously searched on the day of the crime.
Law enforcement collected various items from in and around the victim’s home, including the bed sheet and pillow cases, and eventually the plastic gloves. Law enforcement also collected a rape kit from the victim. No physical evidence from inside the victim’s home matched to Terron. However, the blood inside the plastic gloves was DNA tested and found to be a match to Terron.
Before trial, the State made several plea offers, including one that would have resulted in only a ten-year prison sentence. Terron refused each offer, saying that he could not plead guilty to something he did not do. At trial, the State’s case rested largely on the victim’s testimony and the DNA match to the bloody glove. Terron was found guilty of rape, armed robbery, kidnapping, and breaking and entering, and sentenced to between thirty-five and forty-six years in prison.
In 2011, Terron applied to have some of the evidence DNA tested using new, more sensitive methods than were available at the time of the initial investigation. A judge ordered that DNA testing be performed on the bed sheet, pillow cases, and victim’s rape kit. Testing on the bed sheet and pillow cases revealed a DNA mixture from which Terron was excluded. However, inexplicably, the rape kit was not tested.
Subsequently, Terron sought advanced DNA testing on the blood in the glove. It was discovered that after the trial, the gloves had been destroyed, despite the fact that they were required to be preserved pursuant to both statutory law and a specific order from the trial judge.
The Center recently filed a Motion for DNA Testing seeking to have the rape kit analyzed using state-of-the-art DNA testing, and the State has consented to the testing.