Serial rapist cold case uses federal DNA database

A national DNA database is turning the tide on cold cases.

Tuesday, Surfside Beach police assisted Charlotte police in charging a man with three rapes that occurred in 1979.

To link Surfside Beach resident Jerry Brooks, 62, to the crimes, police used a DNA database called the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS).

"It's pretty much like a fingerprint database in that you've got these two codes sitting on a server. You submit this other set of codes, and it either matches or it doesn't," said Surfside Beach Police Chief Mike Frederick.

In 2010, more than 100,000 crimes were matched to convicted felons and missing persons' DNA in the CODIS database.

In 1979, police did not have a match for the DNA, it had as evidence for what was called the "Ski Mask Rapist" file. So those cases went cold.

Brooks later went to prison for bank robbery.

As a part of his probation when he was released, his DNA was put into the CODIS system.

Charlotte police recently opened up the serial rapist file, and Brooks popped up as a clear match.

Horry County Crime Scene Supervisor Peter Cestare said if handled properly, DNA evidence can last indefinitely, even those preserved in 1979.

"DNA is going to be there forever. It is going to be there long after you and I are gone," said Lieutenant Cestare.

Right now, three Horry County cold cases sit in the database waiting for a match.

Cestare said advancements in DNA technology have led states to increase the amount of time a suspect can be tried.

"DNA has changed the Statute of Limitations on so many crimes because the DNA may not present itself for twenty thirty years."

Cestare said the system is not only a blessing for victims, but thousands of suspects wrongly accused and convicted of crimes have been set free by DNA evidence used in CODIS.

Horry County Police Sergeant Robert Kegler said police solved a double Homicide in 2009 using the CODIS system, after a man whose DNA matched evidence was arrested in Tennessee.