Jane Doe January: My Twenty-Year Search for Truth and Justice: The Case of Cambridge Crime Novelist Emily Winslow

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By Re

“His hands pulling at the buttons down the front of my dress. His hands pulling down my leggings and tights. His hands pushing down hard on my face, the back of my head pushed into ratty renters’ carpeting. It’s not his mouth or his body or sweat or tears that I think of. It’s his hands. And my hands,” she writes, remembering in lurid detail how, with her hands that no longer felt her own, she’d try to force some distance between her body and that of her rapist.

Emily Winslow—or Jane Doe January—was a drama student at Carnegie Mellon’s conservatory in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania when she was stalked and raped on the floor of her off-campus studio. Her intimate, evocative memoir, Jane Doe January: My Twenty-Year Search for Truth and Justice, chronicles the last two decades of her life leading up to the cold-case prosecution of the serial rapist who threatened her life in January, 1992. He is Arthur Fryar and he is the same rapist who fought his extradition against the fugitive task force that arrested him in Brooklyn on the morning of September 12, 2013, after his DNA—in the FBI criminal database from a drug conviction—was matched to evidence from another Pennsylvania case.

“The other victim is going to get it all—a solemn courtroom, a sympathetic jury, an avenging judge. She matters. I’m still the beggar I’ve been for two decades,” Winslow writes, admitting to feeling a sense of jealousy after having been silent, but far from reticent, for 20 years. “He’s been arrested for what he did to her. I want him charged for what he did to me.”

Since what he did to her, Winslow reclaimed her life, married, had two sons and published crime novels set in her new hometown of Cambridge, England, where few knew of what she’s endured.

“It would feel strange to me if I was made into a sort of cautionary tale; that seems impersonal and disrespectful. The people who knew me knew. That felt right to me,” Winslow told Her Report. “My rapist was a stranger, not part of my circle of friends or of the college community. In a way, that made it easier, I think. I didn’t have to deal with betrayal and resulting mistrust, with dividing my peers’ loyalties, with him leading his life alongside me afterward.”

The fictional crime novels she’d been writing took a turn for stark reality when she wrote the story of her own belated investigation into the life her rapist did lead afterward, freely, and her work with legal bureaucracy in the months finally leading to trial.

Despite being the victim, Winslow debated what she’d wear to trial and how she’d act. “Being angry was appropriate. A jury, though, or a more formal judge, is more likely to reward sadness in a victim and disapprove of anger,” she wrote.

It didn’t help her case that there was also a time limit on prosecution. Her case passed its statute of limitations in 1997, the five-year mark since the rape—which was later changed to 12 years in 2002.

“We were able to prosecute in 2013 because of a DNA exception law that Pennsylvania passed on November 30, 2004. It allows a new DNA match to a previously unsuspected person to give a fresh year within which to prosecute a case that is otherwise outside of its statute of limitations,” she explained. “The problem with our case was that the law could only be applied to cases that were still within their statute of limitations when the law was created in 2004. So the problem has been fixed for rapes from December 1999 onward—that is, rapes that had not yet completed their five years when the DNA exception law was added. So there is a swathe of cases from the ’90s and maybe even ’80s for which there are DNA-testable evidence kits, yet won’t be eligible for prosecution in Pennsylvania, even if analysis proves who did it. It’s frustrating for those of us whose cases are in that range of years, but I’m glad that for other cases this is a viable fix.”

Some Pennsylvania cold cases from earlier years have been successfully prosecuted on the basis of the DNA exception law without violating the Supreme Court precedent, if the suspect had left the jurisdiction at the right time, Winslow added.

And some changes are being made. In 2006, New York State got rid of its statute of limitations on rape and, in 2003, New York City cleared its backlog of old evidence kits. In 2014, tens of millions of grant dollars were made available nationally to facilitate jurisdictions testing old evidence kits.

“That’s what I wish for every state: Clear your backlogs. Get rid of the statute of limitations on rape. Or, if not get rid of it entirely, have the window be for reporting the crime, rather than for charging the accused. A rapist shouldn’t be able to get away with it just because he’s unknown to the victim and so he gets caught late—not when there’s DNA evidence, which is so much more reliable than the eyewitness identification of a stranger.”

Because if nothing else, Winslow wanted clarity and a sense of closure.

“What ended up being important to me was wringing everything out of what evidence and information we had,” she said. “Over the 20 years between the crime and the prosecution, I hated that the investigation had been left unfinished. At least taking it as far as we could go was important to me, and gave a sense of ending it… Other people in my situation will need to discover their priorities for themselves. There’s no one way to feel about even very similar situations, and whether one will want to prosecute, whom one will want to tell and even the words that one chooses to use about the situation, are personal choices. I would, though, encourage everyone to get an evidence kit taken, just because that window is small. Getting a rape kit made, as intrusive and difficult as it is, gives a person choices later.”

Read more of Winslow’s story in her memoir, here.

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