Scott County public safety officials this month said they don’t believe there’s a threat to public safety after charges were dropped against the 27-year-old man previously accused of attacking and raping a 20-year-old woman in Jordan last year.
“We don’t have any information that there’s an active perpetrator in the area or something people should be worried about,” Scott County Sheriff Luke Hennen said, noting no similar incidents have been reported since the original accusation against Austin Jeffrey Jones of Excelsior.
Hennen and Scott County Attorney Ron Hocevar said the case is still active and the county continues investigating the assault.
“Our thing is to believe a survivor of sexual assault and investigate what is provided to us and do the best we can,” Hennen said.
The continued investigation will include reexamining other collected evidence and reviewing victim and witness statements to see if something points to a suspect, Hennen added, whether that’s Jones or anyone else.
“We’re open-minded,” he said.
The county for more than a year was building a case against Jones, who was charged with four counts of first- and second-degree criminal sexual conduct with a dangerous weapon and through force after an attack near the SCALE facility.
On Nov. 26, the county dismissed all charges against Jones and asked that he be released for “the interests of justice.”
The dismissal followed a discovery that DNA results appearing to show Jones’ DNA on the victim’s belt and the victim’s DNA on Jones’ clothing were incorrect and were mixed up in the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s Forensic Science lab.
Hocevar and Hennen said they’ve never had a situation with a similar DNA mix-up. A spokesperson for the bureau said this is the only time in the last year in which they have had to perform a corrective action review because of an incorrect result.
Both men said they believed the investigation was sound.
“We have a victim out there who’s obviously been traumatized,” Hocevar said last month. “I believe law enforcement and my office did everything correctly given the evidence that we thought we had at the time.”
Hennen said finding out the case had been built around an error was disappointing.
“It turns to how do you get to the truth and figure out what’s right and move the case in the right direction,” he said.