The Fairfax County, Virginia, police on Tuesday announced an arrest in an alleged rape from 1988.
George Thomas Jr., who is now 61, is being charged with two counts of rape, one count of sodomy and one count of abduction, Cmdr. Ed O’Carroll said at a briefing. He’s being held without bond in Montgomery County, Maryland, where he was arrested at a Metro station.
O’Carroll said at a briefing that the victim in the case left her job on the night of Aug. 24, 1988, at the Skyline Mall, on Leesburg Pike, when two men approached and attacked her in the parking garage. They made the woman, who was 24 at the time, drive to a secluded Northern Virginia location, then led her into the woods, where they both raped her, O’Carroll said. Then they forced her back into her car, made her drive to another location and raped her again, he said, before she escaped.
“An abundant amount of forensic evidence was collected from the scene,” including fingerprints from the victim’s car and a description of one of the men that led to a composite sketch, O’Carroll said.
Still, no one was arrested, even after DNA was found and searched against Virginia and national databases, he added. Even so, “the FCPD never forgot about this case,” O’Carroll said. “We always hoped for a forensic development.”
In 2020, though, “an astute FCPD fingerprint examiner” matched one of those fingerprints to one on an unrelated Alexandria arrest record that was on file. From there, O’Carroll said, they were able to use DNA to connect Gregory Allen Thomas, George Thomas’ younger brother, to the rape. Both had had “police involvement” before, he added.
The younger Thomas had died, and George Thomas was living in Arlington, O’Carroll said. Eventually, police were able to collect a sample from something George Thomas had thrown away – “He might have smoked his last cigar,” O’Carroll said – and when they got a match, Thomas was arrested by U.S. marshals and the Metro Transit police Monday.
When Fairfax County police interviewed Thomas, O’Carroll said, “He made no statement to us that he was involved, made a claim that he had no idea what we were talking about. I beg to differ.”
O’Carroll said victim specialists from the department were with the victim Tuesday “to ensure the victim is receiving the appropriate care and resources.”
New and old technology
While the high technology of DNA examination was instrumental in identifying a suspect, police said it was the old-fashioned tools of fingerprints and composite sketches that made the big difference.
Police Chief Kevin Davis credited “good police work at the scene of this crime in 1988” with paving the way for the case to be solved. O’Carroll said, “The science behind fingerprint analysis is amazing. It’s gotten better over the decades. So, we’re fortunate that that arrest [of George Thomas] took place.”
Dick Cline, the detective who was originally assigned to the case in 1988, said the arrest was “rewarding.”
Cline pointed out that he’d gotten a call just a month ago about a similar case he’d worked on from 1989 that was solved with new technology.
“Even though it’s more than 30 years later, it’s a blessing. It’s a blessing from above that finally some justice will prevail,” Cline said.
O’Carroll added that anyone with more information about this or any other such case should call them at 703-246-7800, option 8. “It’s never too late to come forward, to share and to report,” he said. “You will be believed.”
Davis said the composite sketch of the suspect was also “uncanny” in its resemblance.
“That composite sketch, the collection of a fingerprint, and now, lo and behold, genetic genealogy research — it’s not going to be too long before there’s going to be no such thing as a whodunit crime in America.”