DNA convicts RI man of sexual assault linked to Connecticut woman

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A jury on Wednesday convicted a Rhode Island man of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl in a 2007 cold case that went to trial after DNA evidence linked a suspect to the attack.

Jason Nickerson, 31, was found guilty of four counts of first-degree sexual assault and one count of assault with a dangerous weapon. He was acquitted of one count each of second-degree robbery and assault with a dangerous weapon.

Authorities alleged Nickerson picked up the girl in Providence on June 30, 2007, drove her to a parking lot and sexually assaulted and beat her over three hours.

The Providence Journal reported that the victim, now 21, and Nickerson testified at trial. Nickerson said he hired the girl as a prostitute.

Under state law, Nickerson had to submit a DNA sample after pleading no contest to second-degree robbery in 2010 in an unrelated case. A little more than two months later, a DNA match linked Nickerson to the assault in Providence and another in Connecticut, according to a police affidavit.

Prosecutors have said they do not recall another cold case involving sexual assault going to trial with DNA evidence obtained under the law, which has been on the books since 1998.

Investigators had little to work with before the DNA match.

The teen was picked up, driven around for about 30 minutes before the driver stopped in a parking lot, locked the doors and demanded oral sex, an affidavit said.

The girl didn't know where she was, police have said. She tried to escape but was punched repeatedly in the head and told that if she continued to resist, she and her family would be killed, the affidavit said.

After three hours, the teen was driven elsewhere and ordered out of the vehicle. The man took her cellphone and pocketbook and threatened her again, the affidavit said. She called a friend, who picked her up, and police were called. She was taken to Hasbro Children's Hospital, where a rape kit examination was performed.

A few days later, police said the girl was shown a number of photo arrays, but she could not identify her attacker. There were no developments for three years.

Nickerson remained free, but not out of trouble. In 2008, Nickerson was arrested a few weeks after an East Greenwich bank was robbed when police got a tip that his wife was bragging about her husband making off with thousands of dollars in a bank holdup, police have said.

After Nickerson pleaded no contest in the bank robbery case, a DNA match came back linking him to the two sex assaults, an affidavit said. The victim in the Connecticut case, however, did not want to go forward, police have said.

Last year, a grand jury indicted Nickerson in the 2007 sexual assault. About a month later, he was indicted in a separate case accusing him of domestic sexual assault. Nickerson has pleaded not guilty in the domestic sexual assault case.

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