Man gets 15 years in DuPage rape solved by DNA from jail toothbrush

  • Larry R. Barrett

    Larry R. Barrett

Published: 11/30/2009 12:54 PM | Updated: 11/30/2009 4:48 PM

A man was sentenced Monday to 15 years in prison for a Downers Grove rape that sparked a heated constitutional debate in court.

Larry R. Barrett, 24, formerly of Summit, received the sentence after pleading guilty to aggravated criminal sexual assault.

Barrett did not have a criminal record before the Oct. 9, 2006, attack. He must register as a convicted sex offender upon his release after serving 85 percent of the term.

Barrett admitted repeatedly raping a woman, who had fallen asleep on her couch with the door unlocked, after entering the Autumn Grove apartment complex on the 2000 block of Prentiss Drive in Downers Grove.

The assailant fled, but authorities said he returned and began pounding on her door to get back inside. She was able to flag down a passer-by for help while shouting out from her third-floor window.

"She pleaded with him throughout the sexual assault to stop," Prosecutor Alex McGimpsey said. "He choked her. He also put a pillow over her face to try to muffle (her cries)."

The woman provided police with a composite sketch of her attacker, but she was otherwise unable to identify the man. One week later, an anonymous tipster called police with Barrett's name as a potential suspect.

Detectives later discovered Barrett was imprisoned in downstate Mount Vernon, where he was being held on unrelated property-damage charges. Barrett denied any role in the rape. He also refused to give a DNA sample to test against evidence collected after the sexual assault.

Police lacked enough evidence to get a search warrant. So, authorities seized Barrett's toothbrush during a December 2006 search of his Jefferson County jail cell. Prosecutors said forensic scientists later confirmed Barrett's DNA on the toothbrush matched that collected in the rape kit.

At issue, though, is whether authorities violated Barrett's Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searched and seizures.

The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled jails and prisons are not beyond the U.S. Constitution's reach, but they severely limited those rights to balance them against the need for institutional safety.

Defense attorney Steve Dalton, a senior DuPage County public defender, argued the DNA evidence should be suppressed because it was obtained as part of a criminal investigation, not for security purposes.

In an earlier court hearing, former DuPage Circuit Judge Michael Burke ruled Barrett had no legitimate expectation of privacy while in jail. Burke is now an appellate court judge. He also found a warrantless search is allowed in circumstances where there is a diminished privacy expectation if reasonable suspicion of a crime exists.

Before forensic experts confirmed the preliminary DNA match, police also learned the shoes Barrett was wearing when arrested in Jefferson County matched the impression found on the rape survivor's door - which authorities said Barrett tried to kick in after returning to the apartment.

After being confronted with the shoe-print evidence, prosecutors said, Barrett made various incriminating statements about the sexual assault and acknowledged being at the apartment complex for a friend's party. He also apologized, prosecutors said.

DuPage Circuit Judge Blanche Hill Fawell presided over Monday's plea deal. In exchange for the guilty plea, prosecutors dropped other charges, including that of home invasion.