- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 25, 2009

RICHMOND (AP) DNA testing from a 1984 rape has implicated a notorious Richmond-area serial rapist who’s already behind bars, instead of another man who was convicted for the attack.

Thomas E. Haynesworth, 43, was convicted of the rape in Richmond, as well as a rape in Henrico and an attempted abduction and robbery in Richmond. If he were proven innocent of the Richmond rape, he’d still have to finish serving time for the other crimes.

DNA testing found earlier this month that Haynesworth “was eliminated as a contributor of the DNA profiles that were found foreign to the victim,” according to a court document. The testing was done as part of a massive state project to clear those who may have been wrongly convicted from 1973 through 1988.

The DNA profile identified in semen from the scene of the Jan. 3, 1984 rape in Richmond instead was “consistent with” that of Leon W. Davis, also known as the “Black Ninja.” Davis, 45, is serving seven life terms for sexual assaults in Richmond and Henrico, and for assault and robbery charges in two other cases.

Richmond authorities confirmed earlier this month that they had received word from the Department of Forensic Science that there was inconsistent DNA involving an old case. They now are investigating, but Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael Herring would not comment on the possibility that Davis committed the crime.

Henrico County Commonwealth’s Attorney Wade Kizer said police there still are searching through files to see if there might be something to test in connection with a Jan. 30, 1984 rape there for which Haynesworth also was convicted.

Haynesworth was sentenced to 64 years for his other crimes, so he would have to serve that time unless material is found that supports his innocence in those cases.

Reached by telephone at the Greensville Correctional Center by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Haynesworth said of Davis, “I knew all along he was the man. I told my lawyer. I told (police). He lived right down the street from me.”

The attacks for which both were convicted occurred throughout 1984. Haynesworth was arrested that February. That December, police warned area women that a man who sometimes called himself the “Black Ninja” was suspected of attacking 12 women in Richmond and Henrico beginning that April.

Richmond authorities filed an affidavit Friday in an effort to compel a DNA sample from Davis to verify the match in the state DNA data bank. The affidavit was part of a search warrant obtained in Buckingham County Circuit Court. Davis is an inmate at the Buckingham Correctional Center.

A Richmond detective wrote in the affidavit that the sample in the data bank was consistent with Davis’.

“It seems that this evidence clearly proves that Mr. Haynesworth is innocent of the Richmond rape, and we hope the commonwealth’s attorney is going to be working with us as quickly as possible to rectify that conviction,” said Shawn Armbrust, executive director of the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project.

The public defender’s office in Richmond was unable to locate records indicating whether it had represented Davis, or if he hired his own attorney.

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