DNA leads to guilty plea in rape case

Damien Edwards

The state's mandatory DNA testing of inmates led to a 40-year prison sentence Tuesday for a Goose Creek man who raped a Navy chief petty officer in 2006, authorities said Wednesday.

Damien Edwards, 21, of Raiders Way, pleaded guilty in Berkeley County court to first-degree criminal sexual conduct and kidnapping in the August 2006 Goose Creek case, according to the 9th Circuit Solicitor's Office.

Circuit Judge Kristi Harrington sentenced Edwards to consecutive sentences of 30 years on the criminal sexual conduct charge and 10 years on the kidnapping charge.

The case had remained unsolved for two years until 2008, when Edwards entered the prison system after being sentenced on other charges, Assistant Solicitor Anne M. Williams said in a news release.

On Aug. 13, 2006, Williams said, the victim was on her way to her apartment when she was approached from behind by Edwards, who told her he had a gun and threatened to kill her if she screamed.

He dragged her to an area between two buildings, where she was repeatedly raped, Williams said. The victim immediately called police and reported the attack, but because her attacker's face was hidden by a hood, she was unable to identify him.

According to S.C. Department of Corrections records, Edwards began serving a 19-year sentence for a voluntary manslaughter conviction in a Berkeley County case in 2008. He is currently at Lieber Correctional Institution in Ridgeville.

A DNA sample collected when he entered prison was compared with DNA evidence collected in the original investigation of the petty officer's rape. The sample taken from Edwards was a match, Williams said.

"This is a prime example of how smart legislation helps us make strong cases which can seal the fate of violent sex offenders," Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said. "Without mandatory DNA testing of criminals, this violent defendant would have been back on the streets while still a relatively young man."

Edwards must serve 85 percent of his sentence before being eligible for parole.

Reach David W. MacDougall at macdougd@postandcourier.com or 937-5655.