News 4 Investigates: Woman questions how St. Louis prosecutors handled rape case

Published: Feb. 27, 2023 at 10:26 PM CST
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - Amid growing questions about how cases are being handled at the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office, a woman fears her sexual assault case slipped through the cracks letting her accused attacker off the hook.

In May 2017, Lauren Allsup said she was raped. Now nearly six years later, Allsup said prosecutors recently contacted her to say they weren’t moving forward with her case.

“You don’t matter. The other women that were hurt by the same man, don’t matter,” Allsup said. “I feel discarded, just abandoned by the criminal justice system.”

Allsup said she had gone to a south St. Louis bar for what she thought would be a night out with friends. Police records show that Allsup told officers that she woke up hours later, partially undressed and unaware of where she was, as the man she thought was her friend “grabbed her arms and pinned her to the bed.”

The police report said Allsup ran out of the house and to the closest gas station, where police met her and took her to the hospital.

“They performed a rape kit, they swab every inch of your body,” Allsup said. “Then they just send you home, and you have to figure out how to live life.”

According to a police report obtained by News 4 Investigates, within a week of the reported attack, officers took the man into custody, but no charges were ever filed. Investigative records show that police suggested second-degree sodomy and second-degree attempted rape. Police claim the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office “took the charges under advisement, pending laboratory analysis of the physical evidence.”

That evidence includes the rape kit that was sent to the city’s crime lab. The police report doesn’t mention how Allsup’s rape kit sat untested for years.

Allsup first spoke to News 4 three years ago, in February 2020, after learning her rape kit was one of the thousands in Missouri’s backlog. At the time, the state had just started an initiative to clear the backlog called Safe Kits, backed by then-Attorney General Eric Schmitt. Within a month of speaking to News 4, Allsup claims she got the call she was waiting for.

“They said we tested the kit, we found male DNA, but we’re not going to move forward just yet because of COVID putting a pause on everything,” Allsup recalled.

Allsup says her case needed a warrant to get her alleged attacker’s DNA to see if it was a match. That never happened. Allsup said the prosecutor on the case recently told her they weren’t filing criminal charges.

“They said we’re no longer moving forward because of statute of limitations,” Allsup said.

News 4 Investigates checked Missouri laws on the statute of limitations. There’s no limit for first-degree sexual assaults or rapes. However, in Allsup’s case, police recommended second-degree charges for sodomy and attempted rape. Under Missouri law, those second-degree charges require charging someone within three years of the alleged crime.

There is a catch in the law; time pauses when DNA is found and “included in a published lab report.” That means when Allsup’s rape kit was finally tested the statute of limitations should have paused that day. Allsup said she keeps asking for the lab report to prove it, but no one between the police and the circuit attorney’s office will give it to her.

News 4 Investigates keeps asking police and prosecutors who are responsible in this instance to follow a case, and neither will answer. Both declined multiple requests for an interview.

News 4 Investigates took Allsup’s concerns to Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey.

“I’ll tell you this much, I’m always going to stand up and fight for victims,” Bailey said.

When asked if something needs to be looked at in the state to try and bring sexual assault victims justice, Bailey responded, “They have a constitutional right to justice under the Missouri constitution, and so if there are ways we can improve that process, we’re dedicated to that.”

While Bailey wouldn’t talk about specific changes, he did say that evidence in sexual assault cases have been a long-standing challenge.

“The state has to prove that they violated a statute beyond a reasonable doubt, that’s a heavy burden, and it’s the proper burden, but in order to do that, we have to make sure that we are collecting evidence across the whole spectrum of potential leads,” Bailey added.

Rape kits remain one of the key pieces, which is why clearing the backlog is so crucial. According to the latest numbers from the Attorney General’s office, the state made progress in testing nearly 3,500 kits.

When it comes to what happens to that kit next, there’s a lot less transparency.

News 4 reported how the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office is dealing with its own backlog of cases referred to as Pending Application of Warrant or “PAWs.” These are criminal cases police solved, named a suspect, and brought to prosecutors for charges. As of January 2023, police said there are 4,422 of those cases.

“There’s so much out of control for our victims and survivors,” said Samantha Wayant, Community Engagement Manager at the YWCA Metro St. Louis.

Wayant advocates for victims and survivors of sexual assaults. She said there needs to be more education about what victims experience.

“That can be very devastating for someone who has done everything, that I went to the hospital, I filed a police report, answered all these questions and not understanding of trying to say, but I want to tell my story, I want this person to be held accountable,” Wayant added.

It’s a reality Allsup understands all too well. She said she’s going to keep pushing to get her case re-opened. Allsup is also calling for more transparency around rape kits, saying she still hasn’t been given the lab report that could prove when her kit was tested, information she believes she’s entitled to.

“I’m just one voice, so if other people speak out, maybe something can be done,” Allsup said.

YWCA Metro St. Louis offers multiple services for individuals who have experienced sexual and/or domestic violence, trafficking and/or stalking. They operate a 24/7 Crisis Help Line (314) 531-7273 and a Drop-In Center open weekdays 8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m. where no appointment is necessary, and there is no cost.

The YWCA also helps coordinate the Sexual Assault Response Team (SART), which works with first responders, including hospitals and law enforcement, to provide services to victims as quickly as possible. SART offers advocates who will meet a woman at the hospital and will accompany her all the way through the judicial system if she chooses

correction: An early version of this story had Samantha Wayant's title as Community Engagement Coordinator.