DNA evidence challenged in mattress store rape case

April 30, 2003|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The case of a man charged last year with a 1998 rape at The Mattress Outlet may be the first one in Franklin County in which DNA evidence is contested in court, according to District Attorney John F. Nelson.

"The defense got court approval to retain a DNA expert to review all our DNA evidence," Nelson said Tuesday.

"We've never had a case that went to trial on contested DNA," Nelson said.

Assistant Public Defender Sean M. Fitzgerald confirmed that the defense had retained Dr. Richard Saferstein of New Jersey for the case, but declined to comment on what aspect of the DNA evidence might be challenged in court.

The case of Nelson Eugene Ryder, 42, of Stephens City, Va., was scheduled for the May trial term, but Nelson said the defense was granted a continuance to the July trial term to allow more time for review of the evidence.


Ryder is charged in the July 6, 1998, rape of a 29-year-old employee at The Mattress Outlet, 1502 Lincoln Way East. According to the Pennsylvania State Police affidavit of probable cause, the woman was in the store alone when a man entered at about 10 a.m. and asked about buying a mattress.

The woman became suspicious when the man asked to come to the rear of the store, according to police records. When she turned around, the man grabbed her, threatened to kill her and sexually assaulted her, records allege.

Sperm samples were collected from the woman and her clothes.

Ryder was arrested in March of last year when the Pennsylvania State Police Crime Lab reported a match between those samples and Ryder.

At the time of his arrest, authorities in Virginia said Ryder was on parole for a rape conviction in that state.

In addition to rape, Ryder was charged with terroristic threats, aggravated assault and two counts of aggravated indecent assault, according to court records.

Nelson estimated there have been hundreds of cases involving DNA evidence during his time as district attorney.

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