Rape kit helps Memphis police trace suspected serial rapist, murderer

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis police announced Friday they've identified a serial rapist and murderer with connections to the Mid-South and Memphis.

The suspect was linked to killing a 28-year-old woman in South Carolina in 1990, then seven years later, raping a teenage girl in Memphis.

Through the use of recent technology, we now know his name: Robert Brashers.

"He is a very violent individual or was a very violent individual committing in crimes in Florida, Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, South Carolina," said Deputy Director Mike Ryall with the Memphis Police Department.

Brashers entered a home, bound and tied up four individuals and raped a 14-year-old girl, Ryall said. He would go on to commit a double homicide in Missouri.

"The mother and daughter were killed, shot to death by a suspect and the young girl, 12 years of age, was raped by this suspect," Ryall said.

Hours after that, police say Brashers shot a woman in Dyersburg while trying to get into her home.

He ultimately killed himself in 1999.

Brashers wasn't actually connected to all these crimes until the sexual assault kit from the Memphis rape was sent off in 2016.

It was part of the backlog WREG discovered in 2010.

Although sending off the kit sooner wouldn't have prevented any of these crimes from happening, it did allow them to link the DNA to the crimes in other states.

Brashers' DNA wasn't in the system to identify him, so detectives looked into new technology by Parabon NanoLabs, Inc. that helps identify people by tying their DNA to family members.

MPD received funding from the Memphis Shelby County Law Enforcement Foundation for the testing.

After getting the results earlier this year, investigators met with Brashers' family members and exhumed his body for samples.

"We can now say for sure Robert Brashers was the suspect," said Stephen Shepard, a detective with the Sex Crimes DNA Unit.

Police hope to bring closure to victims like his rape victim in Memphis.

"She's now very successful," Ryall said. "She is very happy, has a good family and we have been in contact with her, and she is very thankful for some closure in this investigation."

Brashers' DNA sample was one of five, so there are still four remaining samples being tested with that new technology. They are all connected to 13 separate cases here in Memphis.

 

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