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Published: Thursday, 7/24/2008

DNA in rape differs from convict's


CHILLICOTHE, Ohio - DNA from an inmate convicted of raping a 10-year-old girl in 1990 doesn't match evidence collected at the crime scene, according to the first results from a lab that is re-examining cases across Ohio.

Semen on the victim's underwear didn't match the DNA profile of Robert McClendon, 52, lawyers with the Ohio Innocence Project said in a story published Tuesday by The Columbus Dispatch.

The group, a nonprofit legal clinic based at the University of Cincinnati, delivered the results to McClendon at the Chillicothe Correctional Institution, where the Columbus man is being held.

Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien said he discussed the new findings yesterday with DNA Diagnostics Center, a private lab in Fairfield that conducted the test, and with lawyers for the Innocence Project. Further tests on other evidence will be done in the next week, he said.

The lab north of Cincinnati agreed to conduct tests on inmates for free as a public service after The Dispatch published a series in January featuring 30 inmates among hundreds whose applications for new DNA testing had been stalled.

The newspaper's investigation found flaws in the state's DNA testing system - police and courts routinely discard evidence after trials, and prosecutors and judges often dismiss inmate applications for DNA testing without a stated reason.

In McClendon's case, authorities long had since lost or thrown away swabs from the victim's medical exam - typically the best evidence for testing rape cases - but agreed to provide the underwear.

Prosecutors said McClendon took a 10-year-old relative from her backyard, blindfolded her, drove her to a house, and raped her. The victim reported the rape the next day and was taken to a hospital.

Columbus police searched for semen on the underwear, but didn't find any.

DNA Diagnostics used new technology that was unavailable at the time of the crime to find faint traces of semen. Analysts obtained a clear genetic profile, then swabbed McClendon's cheek for comparison.

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