The Edwards AFB Sexual Assault Response Coordinator office closed out Sexual Assault Awareness Month by hosting a briefing on a local sexual assault case April 30 at Club Muroc.
Los Angeles Sheriff Deptartment’s Sgt. Brian Hudson, AV Special Victims Bureau, presented the timeline of events in the case of the High Desert Serial Rapist, which was concluded in 2009.
Hudson’s presentation gave insight into the Sheriff Department’s role in sexual assault cases, which today, are handled by the Special Victims Unit.
“Up until 2012, sexual assault cases were handled by regular deputies, but the problem was that sexual assault is a crime of specialty,” said Hudson.
Los Angeles County has the largest population of any county in the United States. Its population is only exceeded by eight states and LA County makes up approximately 27 percent of all California residents.
According to Hudson, there are more reported sexual assault cases in the Antelope Valley than anywhere else in the county. He emphasized “reported” as the key word.
One of those cases, the High Desert Serial Rapist, began June 3, 2004, when a 38-year-old woman was sexually assault inside her home in Lancaster. The suspect was an unknown black male. The victim used a stun gun to attempt to fight back. The suspect slammed her head into the floor three times and used broken glass to cut her before fleeing the scene with the stun gun.
Hudson commented that violence would become a theme throughout the series of cases.
The next attack happened in 2004 as a 17-year-old female was walking on the east side of Lancaster. She was approached by a man who offered her a ride so that she would not have to walk in the rain. The victim stated that he seemed like a “nice guy” when she entered his vehicle where he assaulted her in a dark, desolate area.
She was also attacked when she attempted to fight off the suspect.
In 2005, the suspect returned to the scene of the first assault. This time, the assault was interrupted when the doorbell rang and the suspect fled through the bedroom window.
The assaults continued until April 2007 at which time there were seven assault cases that had not been connected to each other.
On April 26, 2008, a 21-year-old female reported she was dragged by a vehicle in Lancaster driven by Abram Bynum. Bynum was arrested for assault with a deadly weapon, but the case was rejected by the district attorney. Despite the Sheriff’s Department policy and California laws, Bynum’s DNA was not obtained during his booking at the Lancaster Station.
In June 2009, detectives from the Special Victims Bureaus at both the Lancaster and Palmdale Stations were notified that five cases were linked by the same unknown suspect DNA and the High Desert Serial Rapist Task Force was formed.
Meanwhile, one of the possible suspects, Bynum was residing in Columbus, Ohio. His DNA was collected, voluntarily and analyzed along with six other possible suspects. Bynum thought it was related to one assault with a deadly weapon case in 2008, so he wasn’t “worried about it.”
July 7, 2009, Special Victims Bureau detectives landed at the Columbus Airport. Meanwhile, Columbus detectives found a U-Haul at Bynum’s residence. Bynum and his brother, Aaron, appeared to flee the area when they left in two separate vehicles only to reunite at a local pawn shop where they tried to sell one vehicle.
Columbus Police attempted to stop both brothers. Aaron pulled over. However, Bynum chose to begin a pursuit down Interstate 70. After a 10-minute pursuit, Bynum crossed the center divider where was involved in a head-on collision with a semi-truck.
Police approached the vehicle, which was on fire, and found Bynum moving in his vehicle, appearing to be arming himself. Bynum was killed in an officer-involved shooting.
According to Hudson, it is believed that Bynum may have been responsible for 20 other sexual assaults that occurred in the Antelope Valley during that time.
The High Desert Serial Rapist case resulted in two important lessons for the Sheriff’s Department. First, they learned that identical twins can have the same DNA profile. This was discovered when Bynum’s identical twin brother, Aaron was swabbed. The other lesson was the need for all felony adult sex crimes to be investigated by the Special Victims Bureau and today those cases are.
Hudson encouraged women to “always be aware of your surroundings.”
“If a female is going to be out late, have a friend with them,” said Hudson. “Two sets of eyes are better than one.”
When a female is sexually assaulted, Hudson encourages her to fight back and refuse to be a victim.
“You see in this case one of the victims fought back and he had finally had enough and left,” said Hudson. “Fight back, gouge eyes, there are certain spots on men that, if we get hit there, it really hurts really bad. Just fight back, don’t be afraid to hit, gouge, scratch, whatever it takes. Also, be vocal, be loud, scream.”
After an assault, victims are encouraged to call law enforcement immediately and refrain from bathing or showering. Victims are encouraged to have a sexual assault examination.
“Sheriffs work very closely with victims to make sure they are protected,” said Hudson. “One of the first things they do is get a protective order from the court. The safety of the victim is always first and foremost with us whether it’s children or adults.”
Finally, Hudson encouraged every member of the community to “be part of the solution.”
“Know what’s going on in your neighborhood, if you see something that doesn’t look right, don’t be afraid to call the police department.”
The LA County Sheriff’s Department is the law enforcement provider to 42 incorporated contract cities and 90 unincorporated communities throughout the county. There are 23 sheriff’s stations and over 18,000 sworn and civilian staff.
Volunteers on patrol act as “eyes and ears” for the sheriff’s department.
“Law enforcement cannot do its job anywhere in the country without the community,” concluded Hudson. “It’s easy to sit on your couch and say, ‘why don’t they do something about that’ – well, how about making a call, or joining a neighborhood watch or something like that.”