Sexual assault of woman in Austin highlights DNA lab delays

Timothy Leslie Bronaugh (Austin Police Photo)
Timothy Leslie Bronaugh (Austin Police Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Another Austin police sexual assault case is highlighting what some victim advocates say is too long a delay for DNA results to be completed and end in judicial proceedings in the city.

Timothy Leslie Bronaugh, 32, was arrested and booked Sunday into the Travis County Jail and charged with sexual assault, a second degree felony.

The sexual assault report dates back to the end of 2013, when an unidentified victim reported to police that she had been raped.

The victim told detectives that on the night of Nov. 30, 2013, she met up with three friends to go barhopping on Sixth Street in downtown, but at some point during the night, she was separated from them. “She remembered feeling scared and alone and tried to call her cousin, [redacted] to pick her up,” the affidavit stated. The victim told police she blacked out and had no memory of what happened until she woke up in a vehicle with three men.

The woman completed a Sexual Assault Forensic Exam (SAFE) and the results were received on June 1, 2015. The report found that the DNA profile from a penile swab taken from Bronaugh is consistent with a mixture of at least two individuals and that neither the victim nor Bronaugh could be excluded as contributors to the DNA profile.

Detective Robert Thompson, with APD Sex Crimes, told KXAN that there is a 120 hour window of time a Sexual Assault Forensic Exam (SAFE) should be completed, post-assault.

After the completion of the exam, police say the evidence is collected and law enforcement has 30 days, according to Texas state law, to submit the evidence for forensic testing.

“Where the SAFE exam really comes into play is on the unknown suspect,” said Detective Thompson. “That’s kind of where we fall into the realm of ‘How do we prioritize this?’”

Det. Thompson said that the backlog of DNA testing has become apparent over the years. “When the lab first started testing DNA kits, you know, they’re starting from scratch,” he said, “Slowly over time, the progression of getting more things to test for DNA — because all the sudden we’re submitting things to them to be tested from burglaries, burglary of vehicles, all sorts of different crimes rather than just, homicide and sex crimes. They’re getting just more and more DNA evidence.”

Thompson says that with the amount of evidence that is being collected on a daily basis, backlog began to increase, a little bit at a time. “By the time anybody realizes it, it’s at a point where there’s no real way to catch up.”

Detective Thompson says that in general, DNA is only one part of the puzzle in solving crimes and that police cannot rely only on DNA. “If there’s enough evidence from what you know, either the victim says, corroborating evidence from video, anything like that, if there is enough to file charges without getting the results of the DNA analysis, we will,” he said.

Thursday, Austin City Council will take up an item related to forensic testing in an effort to relieve some of the backlog. This was the recommendation of the Austin Public Safety Commission.

Council members will decide whether to authorize a 12-month interlocal agreement with Dallas County, acting through the Southwestern Institute of Forensic Sciences at Dallas, for forensic services not to exceed $1,600,000 with five 12-month extension options not to exceed $400,000 per extension option, for a total estimated contract amount not to exceed $3,600,000.

The agreement, which has the goal of clearing the backlog of DNA cases for APD, would end on Sept. 30, 2017.

Bronaugh is in the Travis Co. Jail on a $75,000 bond. KXAN looked into Bronaugh’s criminal background and found a number of arrests in the state of Texas. They include charges in 2006 for burglary of habitation and false statement for property of credit in Travis County. In Hays County, Bronaugh was arrested in 2009 and 2010 for burglary of habitation. He was convicted on all of the charges.

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