Two people are now facing criminal charges in the first case tied to Bernalillo County’s backlog of thousands of previously untested rape kits.
The first indictment comes against a now-21-year old man and a now-20-year old woman who are accused in the rape of a teen girl in 2016.
Dayquan Terna is charged with criminal sexual penetration of a minor and sexual exploitation of children, while co-defendant Regina Gomez is charged with sexual exploitation of children and evidence tampering.
The two are accused in a November 2016 incident. According to an indictment, the alleged crime is said to have involved alcohol and a cell phone video of the incident.
“This is just the first of what we hope will be very many,” said Spring Schofield, an assistant district attorney and the lead prosecutor on the case.
Schofield is one of the first prosecutors on the DA’s newly formed rape kit backlog cold case unit.
“She along with many other victims in the area have been waiting a long time,” said Schofield.
The case filed against Terna and Gomez marks a turning point in the county’s rape kit backlog, as the first case from the backlog to lead to criminal charges.
“The assault happened in 2016, the victim was only 16 at the time,” said Schofield.
It’s unclear exactly why the evidence in this case languished. However, the case is like many others that have sat untested for decades.
As many as 5,000 rape kits have sat in Albuquerque Police evidence storage for decades. Often times, the cases sat untested. Some officials say the lack of testing came from investigators’ doubts about the credibility of victims.
Several federal grants are now paying for the testing, investigating and prosecution of cases tied to the untested kits.
The Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office has now received results from around 1,500 cases — 52 of those cases have been marked for further investigation.
“Many of the cases that we’re getting are stranger rapes where the person was not known to the victim at the time,” said Lee Hood, director of the Special Victims Unit for the Bernalillo County DA’s Office.
Hood’s department is now building the first rape kit backlog “cold case unit.” With a team of four prosecutors and an investigator, they’ll focus specifically on cases from the backlog.
“Especially over the next year and two years there will be many more connections, probably to other crimes as well,” said Hood.
Terna and Gomez are scheduled to be arraigned in court on Friday, Feb. 8. So far, neither of the accused are in custody.