The Oklahoma City Police Department is changing its protocol on how the agency handles cases after a rape reported in 2011 was not investigated for more than seven years.
Connie Williams, 51, reported to police she was raped at a Christmas party she attended with her fiancé at an Oklahoma City bar in late 2011. She said she has little memory of what happened and didn’t learn of it until the next day, when another partygoer, who thought the encounter was consensual, said they had seen Williams and a bartender in a bathroom together.
Williams suspects someone might have slipped her a date-rape drug.
Williams, who lived in Tulsa at the time, reported the incident to the Tulsa Police Department and had a rape kit collected at a hospital there a few days later. However, the Oklahoma City Police Department closed the case before retrieving the rape kit or investigating her report. The department in January acknowledged it mishandled the case and an internal investigation into its mistreatment was opened.
Oklahoma City Police Department Deputy Chief Jeff Becker said an employee marked the case as closed in 2011 before it was ever assigned to an investigator. The agency is working on a protocol that aims to ensure cases will not be assigned, reviewed and closed by the same person, he said.
“We’re almost completed with it,” Becker said. “We’ve been working on this for awhile.”
The Oklahoma City Police Department conducted an internal investigation into the handling of the case, Becker said. He said he couldn’t discuss the results of that investigation or any related personnel records because they are confidential under state law. However, he said, the case should have been investigated in 2011.
The Frontier first reported on Williams’ case in January. The Oklahoma City Police Department had initially told Williams her rape kit did not exist — though the agency later found it in the custody of the Tulsa Police Department — and the case had been closed for lack of evidence. In late 2018, the agency located her untested kit and admitted they mishandled her case.
It’s not uncommon for a victim to get a rape kit done in another jurisdiction. Normally, a detective would immediately call the victim upon getting the report, and if a kit was done, they would retrieve it, then-Oklahoma City Police Department Major Jason Clifton said in January.
A rape kit, also known as a sexual assault evidence kit, is used to preserve any DNA evidence from a sexual assault. The exam, often performed by a specially trained nurse, can connect victims with important resources, such as STI prevention medication and referrals to counseling services. When victims go to a hospital, the exam is free and they are not required to file a police report.
Rape kits can also increase the likelihood of the perpetrator being prosecuted.
Police tested Williams’ rape kit earlier this year, but no DNA evidence was found, agency records provided by Williams show. Last week, Williams, who now lives in Louisiana, traveled to Oklahoma City to give the police department the dress she was wearing the night of the party in hopes DNA will be found.
DA says there won’t be charges
In a statement to News4 last week, Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater said there would be no charges filed in the case.
“The OKCPD has investigated this case more than once,” Prater said. “The story of the alleged victim has been disproven and she has been untruthful multiple times. Because of her credibility issues, we will not be able to prosecute this case.”
Prater did not respond to several messages requesting further comment.
Williams said the district attorney’s statement to the TV station was unexpected and “devastating.”
“I can honestly say the DA’s statement has really rocked my world,” Williams said. “I totally feel revictimized, but this time by the people inside a judicial system that has denied my due process without a conscience and with cruel intent.”
Williams provided The Frontier with police records related to her case. In an Oklahoma City Police Department crime report from March, an officer wrote an assistant district attorney declined to file charges in the case due to a lack of evidence that the incident wasn’t consensual.
The department started investigating the case in January this year, and interviewed Williams and other people who were at the Christmas party more than seven years ago, records show. All but one person said they heard rumors, but did not witness the incident. One woman, who said she briefly saw the encounter, told police she thought it was consensual.
“I promise you if this was consensual, my husband would have forgiven me and we would have moved passed this,” Williams said. “But we can’t. It’s a heavy burden.”
Statewide tracking system
The Oklahoma Bureau of Investigations is in the midst of implementing a statewide tracking system that will allow victims and law enforcement to track the status of their rape kits through processing.
Oklahoma leaders started to bring attention to the issue of the state’s untested rape kits in 2017. Former Gov. Mary Fallin signed an executive order that year creating a 17-member task force to determine the number of untested rape kits in more than 350 law enforcement agencies across Oklahoma. The audit found more than 7,000 untested kits.For several years
Until recently, Oklahoma had no laws that mandated law enforcement agencies keep rape kits in their possession for a certain amount of time or that required agencies to send the kits to a crime lab for processing in a timely manner.