A Criminal Court jury convicted Jerald Jefferson in 37 minutes in the attack on the Trezevant High School student who was 16 when the crime occurred.
The victim, now 28, told jurors that on Oct. 4, 2002, she was abducted from the campus by three men who forced her into a car, put a pillowcase over her head and drove to another location where she was raped. She said they threw her out of the car near Quinn and Elvis Presley, but kept her purse and shoes and destroyed her cell phone. She walked to a nearby auto business where employees called police.
A rape kit was prepared, but was not tested until two years later when the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation received a grant to test a backlog of kits in cases where there were no identified suspects.
The TBI loaded the DNA profile into the CODIS computer database which got a “hit” in 2010, matching the profile to Jefferson whose DNA had been taken following his arrest in an aggravated assault case.
Memphis Police Lt. Cody Wilkerson, who began tracking cold cases, found the victim, told her of the evidence and she agreed to cooperate with prosecutors even though she had moved on with her life, said assistant district attorney Terre Fratesi who prosecuted Jefferson in a four-day trial.
Fratesi said the victim had given police the name of one of the suspects, but that the case was not pursued.
That suspect, Antonio Starks, was convicted in 2011 of first-degree murder in the beating death of a three-year-old girl. He is serving a life sentence.
Fratesi is a member of the district attorney’s Special Victims Unit (SVU) which is headed by chief prosecutor Jennifer Nichols.
SVU prosecutes cases of child sexual abuse and severe physical abuse of child victims; rape and aggravated rape of adult victims; elder and vulnerable adult abuse.
SVU reviews child cases cooperatively with the Shelby County's multi-agency Child Protection Investigative Team.