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DNA evidence introduced in trial of woman accused of sexually assaulting, beating other woman with hammer

Rebecca Dakota Grant

GRAND FORKS — Witnesses testified Thursday, Dec. 6, about DNA evidence for a case involving a woman accused of beating another woman with a hammer and sexually assaulting her.

The state also called witnesses on the second day of trial to question the alibi of 31-year-old Rebecca Dakota Grant of Grand Forks, who faces charges of gross sexual imposition, attempted murder, terrorizing and aggravated assault.

If convicted of the felony sex crime, she would face a minimum of 20 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life behind bars.

The woman Grant allegedly assaulted tearfully testified Wednesday Grant raped and sodomized her on May 22. She also testified Grant beat her in the face, back and stomach with a claw hammer; hit her with fists and an oscillating fan; sprayed her in the face with bleach water; strangled her until she passed out; told her she was going to kill her and cut her with a box cutter.

The woman told jurors she’d known Grant for several years and was living at the apartment where she was assaulted. She had a restraining order against Grant, but said they’d been in regular contact. Jurors also saw photos Wednesday of the woman’s injuries taken by a sexual assault nurse examination.

Photos taken by investigators in the days following the alleged assault also were shown Thursday during trial. The photos showed deepened bruises, including black eyes and darker bruising by the neck.

During examination, Grand Forks Police Sgt. Mike Jennings, the lead investigator in the case, said he was unable to verify Grant’s alibi. He also testified she changed her story.

Grant can be heard during a recorded call with Jennings saying she was visiting her mother in South Dakota May 20 through 23. She told him her mother picked her up and drove her back to Grand Forks.

Grant called Jennings again about 15 minutes later to tell him her longtime friend had actually driven her back. The friend testified earlier in the day Grant had asked her to lie about driving her to Grand Forks, but she refused.

Surveillance footage from Victoria’s Secret also placed Grant in Grand Forks during those days, and a cellphone analyst testified Grant’s phone was used in the city.

Photos taken during a search of the apartment showed small amounts of blood on the kitchen wall and living room floor.

Jennings said an apartment manager reported finding bloodied clothing, rags and bedsheets in the downstairs laundry trash days after investigators had searched the apartment. A piece of Grant’s mail was rolled into a duvet spattered with blood.

A North Dakota State Crime Laboratory DNA Analyst Kyle Splichal testified Thursday about physical evidence found on the accuser’s body and within the apartment.

Swabs from the woman’s ear and shoulder tested positive for Grant’s DNA and a swab from her face showed a partial match to Grant.

The defense pointed out Grant’s DNA was not found on the woman’s genital swabs, though Jennings said this may be because the items the woman was assaulted with may not have left DNA.

“It’s not like a traditional sexual assault case where bodily fluids are left behind,” he said.

There was no DNA from Grant or the woman found on the hammer or razor blades.

Public Defender Samuel Gereszek questioned again why details of the woman’s allegations had changed throughout interviews. He said she told investigators three different versions of how the alleged attack began during different interrogations. She changed between allegations that Grant initially hit her with a hammer, punched her or tackled her.

Jennings said he’s handled over 100 sexual assault cases, and it’s common for victims to remember things as time progresses because they’ve experienced extreme trauma.

“It’s not unheard of for details to change, sometimes drastically — it’s really case by case,” he said.