Thursday, August 14, 2008

Police Use DNA to Link Man to 1997 Rapes

By Conor Greene

A Queens man was charged with two rapes that occurred in 1997 after his DNA was recently matched to evidence collected at the time, authorities announced.

Peter Grebinger, 41, of 87th Street in Richmond Hill, has been charged with two counts of first-degree rape and one count of first-degree sodomy, according to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown. He was arraigned last Thursday in Queens Criminal Court and is being held without bail until his next court appearance on September 2.

Grebinger was linked to the two rapes after police searched his house at 85-87 87th Street in April on an unrelated investigation. The search turned up two loaded semi-automatic guns – a 9mm and a .25 caliber pistol – along with cocaine and marijuana. The guns were tested for DNA, and investigators were able to recover a profile from one, according to Brown.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner linked the DNA found on the gun to two cold rape cases from 1997. A DNA sample was then taken from Grebinger and matched to the profile found on the gun, leading to the charges, said Brown. “This case underscores yet again the crucial importance of DNA evidence which is irrefutable proof of guilt or innocence,” the district attorney said in a statement. “After nearly ten years of avoiding arrest in the two cases, the defendant ultimately was done in by his own genes.”

According to the charges, a 33-year-old woman was walking to the subway on her way to work at 7:30 a.m. on January 3, 1997 when Grebinger approached her near 87-18 101st Avenue and told her that he had a gun and not to scream. He allegedly demanded money from her and then forced her into a nearby building where he raped and sodomized her before again demanding money. After she handed over the cash, he told her to count to one hundred and fled.

In the second case, a 22-year-old woman was on her way to work at 6:20 a.m. on December 28, 1997 when she flagged down Grebinger, who was driving a dollar cab, near 179th Street and Jamaica Avenue. Grebinger allegedly told her that the back rear seat was full and that she should sit up front. Once the woman was inside the car, he allegedly locked the doors and told the woman to keep quiet and do what he said.

According to Brown, a struggle then ensued, during which Grebinger slammed her head into the dashboard and told her to get on the floor. After driving a short distance, he parked the car and took the woman’s jewelry before ordering her into the backseat, where he raped her. He then drove from the scene before ordering the woman out of the car.

In each case, the victim was taken to a localhospital where a sexual assault kit was prepared. However, the cases went cold for more than a decade until Grebinger was arrested on the unrelated weapons and drug charges, said Brown.

After police searched the house, Grebinger and his father, also named Peter Grebinger, were charged with third-and-fourth degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and second-and-third-degree criminal possession of a weapon, according to Brown. Bail was set at $15,000 in that case for Grebinger and $5,000 for his 62-year-old father. Both are due back in court on September 8 to face those charges.

According to Brown, this case highlights the need to collect a DNA sample from “everyone convicted of a felony or misdemeanor” to help solve other cold cases. “The cost of omitting many crimes from the DNA databank - as is the case under the existing law – is that those who commit brutal acts of violence may escape identification and remain free to leave more victims in their wake,” he said.

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