DNA evidence presented at Rayhons trial

Amy Pollpeter, DCI forensic analyst, discusses DNA evidence. Leader photo by Rebecca Peter

GARNER - The prosecution rested their case on Thursday in the sexual abuse trial of Henry Rayhons. Amy Pollpeter, forensic DNA analyst for the Department of Criminal Division (DCI), was the last witness called by the prosecution.

A quilt, blanket, bed sheets and Donna Rayhons’ under garments were sent to the DCI lab in Ankeny. A sexual assault kit taken from Donna Rayhons the evening of May 23, 2014, and swabs with DNA samples from Henry Rayhons in June were also sent to the lab.

Pollpeter said forensic testing showed evidence of Henry Rayhons’ sperm on a bed sheet and the quilt, although just how old the stains were wasn’t conclusive. She said laundering could damage the DNA. Pollpeter said her best estimate of when the deposit was made was sometimes after the most recent washing.

While she couldn’t confirm that a stain on Donna Rayhons’ underwear that was retrieved from a laundry bin, was seminal fluid, Pollpeter said she eliminated as many “false positives” as possible during testing. She also said the stain probably occurred sometime after the last laundering.

While there was no sign of Henry Rayhons’ DNA collected from Donna on May 23, 2014, the night of the alleged incident. Pollpeter said that was not unusual. In approximately 50 percent of the sexual assault kits, she finds no other DNA other than the victim’s.

She says that has happened even in cases where there was a confession of assault.

However, that doesn’t necessarily mean there was no sex, she said.

“If there are only a few cells, even though we may not be able to detect them, they may still be there,” she said.

Defense attorney Joel Yunek said, “The truth of the matter is, you can’t say whether those stains were there a day, a week, a month or a year.”

Pollpeter responded that negative test results don’t necessarily mean that a sex act didn’t take place. “It just means there is no DNA,” she said. “Not necessarily surprising.”

 

Roommate Testifies

The first witness for the defense was 86-year-old Pauline “Polly” Schoneman, roommate to Donna Rayhons at Concord Care Center.

Care Center staff testified earlier in the week that Schoneman was very upset the evening May 23, 2014, following a visit by Henry Rayhons to his wife.

Court documents state that after Rayhons had left, Schoneman hit the call button in her room to summon staff. Staff testified Schoneman reported that she heard noises behind the privacy curtain Rayhons had drawn.

“I’m not stupid. I know what was going on behind that curtain,” she was reported to have said.

Schoneman said she and Donna Rayhons got along very well.

“I liked her a lot,” she stated.

And she acknowledged that Donna Rayhons was very fond of Henry.

Attorney Yunek asked her if the noises that she heard were “whispering” or “praying?”

Schoneman said she was uncomfortable “because I felt like I was intruding on someone else.”

“Did you think the noises you heard were sexual in nature?” Yunek asked.

“I can’t say that,” she responded.

“So, you don’t think anything you heard was sexual?”

“I really can't say, because I wasn’t there,” Schoneman answered. “I only heard sounds, and I tried not to hear that. We were in close contact. The curtain was there and I felt uncomfortable.”

In her cross-examination, prosecutor Susan Krisko said, “It’s been hard on you having to talk about this kind of talk?”

“Yes,” Schoneman said.

“That night, when you were talking to the nurses, you were talking about sexual noises, weren’t you?” Krisko asked.

Schoneman said “yes.”

“And that’s what you actually heard on the other side of the curtain?”

“I assumed that’s what it was,” Schoneman said. “I was on the other side of the curtain. I could not see. I could just hear sounds.”

More trial coverage in the April 22 Leader.