One early morning in 1985, a masked intruder broke into Carrie Krejci’s apartment. At gunpoint, he tied her hands behind her back. Hearing stories on the news of a masked man roaming the neighborhood raping women at gunpoint and fearing for her own life, she begged for mercy. After ransacking her home, the assailant brutally raped her.
On August 19, 2020, David Thomas Hawkins, 75, was arrested for the aggravated sexual assault of Krejci. Sentenced to four life sentences in prison on September 2, 2021, the former dentist confessed to raping at least 30 other women in the Dallas, Texas area between 1982 and 1985.
“That’ll be reassuring,” Krejci told the Dallas Morning News, “to know that he’s in prison, and that he’ll be there for the rest of his life.”
Hawkins might have gotten away with his crimes had it not been for the $5.3 million in Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) grant funding that Dallas County had received from the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) since 2015. Among other things, these grants allowed the county to hire two dedicated prosecutors for “cold case” homicides and sexual assaults, two investigators, and two victim advocates.
With the SAKI grants and through their training and technical assistance program, Dallas County law enforcement officials also worked in partnership with a team of subject matter experts, which offered expertise and assistance in collecting and processing DNA forensic evidence, crime analysis, cold case prosecution, as well as provided victim-centered support to Krejci and her family.
“This is what has been lacking for so long,” stressed Dr. Angela Williamson, supervisor of BJA’s Forensics Unit and Federal Bureau of Investigation Violent Criminal Apprehension (ViCAP) Program liaison, which administers SAKI. “It is easy to play the blame game as to why there are so many backlogged cases, but SAKI shows that when you devote resources to these cases, you can get them solved.
“With SAKI, you are not only clearing the backlog of cold cases but forever changing the landscape of how sexually motivated crimes are treated by the whole criminal justice system going forward. Because at the end of the day, what SAKI achieves is not only justice for the victims and making sure their voices are being heard, but it also makes sure that these violent offenders are taken off the street as soon as possible.”
Because the program takes a multidisciplinary approach to solve these sexual assaults crimes, SAKI is by design one of the most complex grant programs at the Office of Justice Programs, Williamson explained.
“At the core, the onus to solve these cases is not just on law enforcement, investigators, or prosecutors; with SAKI, it takes everyone coming together to figure out how to work together to make sure that mistakes of the past are not repeated, so therefore, avoiding another backlog of cases,” said Williamson. “So we not only give money to test the kits, investigate the kits, and prosecute the cases, but we provide the training on how to do everything efficiently and properly.”
On September 10, 2015, then Vice President Joe Biden and then Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch announced the first $41 million in SAKI grant awards to 20 jurisdictions across the U.S. to eliminate or reduce the number of untested sexual assault kits.
“Rape kits are an essential tool in modern crime fighting — not only for the victim, but for the entire community,” said then Vice President Biden, a champion of the SAKI Program. “When we solve these cases, we get rapists off the streets. For most survivors, seeing their rapists brought to justice, and knowing that they will not return, brings peace of mind and a sense of closure. The grants we’re announcing today to reduce the national rape kit backlog will bring that sense of closure and safety to victims while improving community safety.”
Today, just as Biden predicted, hundreds of thousands of old sexually motivated cold cases are being addressed under SAKI throughout the U.S. There are approximately 70 SAKI active grants in 44 states, with most of those grantees holding multiple awards. Assailants, even those whose crimes date back more than 35 years, are now put on notice, and know that the criminal justice system will not rest until they are all behind bars.
“We see so many negative articles in the media stating that nothing is being done for victims, that no one cares, and there is still a big backlog of cases; that is just not true,” emphasized Williamson. “The amount of resources put into SAKI is amazing, so I want victims and survivors to know there has been immense change across the country.
“I have had the privilege of hearing the reactions from survivors of sexual assault when their rapist is finally caught. And I think what a lot of people don’t understand is that sexual assault and rape is not just a one-off event in somebody’s life or a blip on the radar. It is something that has impacted someone’s life, often changes the course of their life, and stays with them all the time. What SAKI tells survivors is that someone still cares and is still there fighting for them.”
Williamson believes the more victims feel comfortable coming forward, the quicker the criminal justice system can identify and prosecute these offenders and put them in prison. This will only happen if victims are taken seriously and their cases investigated.
One of the things that Williamson and her staff have discovered since SAKI started in 2015 is that about 60 percent of sexual assault offenders are linked to multiple other crimes. Many of these sexual assault cases have 10 to 20 other crimes linked to them.
“It is not like offenders commit one rape and say, ‘OK, I am stopping.’ They keep going and don’t quit,” concludes Williamson. “And if somebody thinks it is acceptable to rape, they will think it is just fine to kill and commit other violent crimes. They are basically just individual wrecking balls on society. So there is value in listening to these victims, addressing their cases, and getting the evidence tested to increase public safety. The SAKI Program is having a huge impact on the whole criminal justice system.”
For more information about SAKI and how to apply for a grant, please visit the SAKI area of our site.