Rape arrest comes 19 years after attack in Pascagoula

By Steve Phillips - bio | email

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - Pascagoula police say they've solved a nearly 20 year old rape case, thanks to advancements in DNA and a victim determined to seek justice.

Investigators held a news conference Thursday afternoon to discuss the series of events that led them to an arrest.

When a 15 year old was sexually assaulted at Eden Manor apartments 19 years ago, police had little to go on.

"The young lady described him as about five foot nine, skinny, with a deep voice, needing to shave," said Captain Shannon Broom.

But while that description was not enough, investigators say physical evidence collected then would become crucial years later.

"There was a sexual assault kit performed on the young lady back then. Of course back in 1990, we didn't really have much. DNA wasn't that big. So the only thing they could really kind of do was blood type this person," said Broom.

Police say the case grew cold over the years, until the victim contacted detectives just last year.

"This is something that has bothered her for the past 19 years. She has just... it's been on her mind. It weighed heavily on her. And she just stopped by basically to see if we had any developments," said Broom.

That put a new team of investigators on the case and in touch with the state crime lab, with technology that wasn't around 19 years ago.

"They did a DNA profile at our request and were able to develop a profile for a male donor. Which would be the suspect in the case," Broom said.

That led to Wednesday's arrest of 47-year-old Lester Jerome Selmon. He was taken into custody without incident at his apartment home on Lanier Street.

Selmon's DNA match came from a sample he provided the Department of Corrections when he was released from prison last year, after serving 11 years of a 15 year sentence for a kidnapping and rape in Gulfport.

Police detectives say they have even more questions for their suspect. They're investigating his possible involvement in two other sexual assaults that happened just two weeks after the 1990 crime, in the same neighborhood.

"Same general area of town, I would say probably within a three block radius. Not sure who's connected with those, but we are going to look into those cases," said Broom.

Detectives cite the DNA technology for making the case, but give much credit to the victim for not giving up.

"For the most part, had been put on the back shelf and nobody kind of knew about it. But we had one victim who has not forgot. And she wanted her justice," said Broom.

Police say the suspect has denied any involvement in the crime. Selmon told investigators he's done nothing and doesn't know what they're talking about.  He's being held on a $2 million bond, charged with rape and residential burglary.

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