In 2014, a University of Minnesota undergraduate named Abby Honold was raped at an off-campus
apartment by a fellow student. Minneapolis police arrested the suspect, but released him a few days
later. It would take a year before an investigator from another police department picked up Honold’s
case and helped bring her rapist to justice.
In reporting that story, Star Tribune reporters heard from several law enforcement sources that
sexual assault investigations in Minnesota deserved further scrutiny.
Over the past year, the Star Tribune has examined more than 1,400 rape and sexual assault case files
from the 20 law enforcement agencies across Minnesota that reported the highest number of sexual
assault reports to the FBI.
Using a public-records request, reporters obtained every rape report from 2015 and 2016 that
Minneapolis and St. Paul police departments considered closed. For the other agencies, the Star
Tribune examined a random sample from the same years.
A reporter or editor read each of the files, screening out any cases that involved children or
incest, were deemed unfounded by police, or that remain under investigation. We logged key details
from the cases, such as whether there was physical evidence; whether suspects or witnesses were
interviewed, and whether charges were ever filed.
In assessing those case files, the reporters relied on best-practice investigative guidelines
developed by the International Association of Chiefs of Police and an advocacy group called End
Violence Against Women International. The reporters also attended a two-day law enforcement seminar
about investigating sexual assault. We also asked 13 veteran investigators and prosecutors from
across the United States to review and comment on more than 160 of the Minnesota cases.
In addition to the case files, reporters and editors examined hundreds of pages of court records and
police documents and interviewed more than 100 assault survivors, sex crimes investigators, jurists,
women’s advocates and academic researchers. Rape survivors were identified in these stories only if
they specifically agreed to the use of their names for publication.
Panel of independent investigators
In reporting this series, the Star Tribune consulted 13 veteran sexual assault investigators across
Justin Boardman: Former sex
crimes investigator in Utah; now trains police on best practices for sex assault investigations.
Roger Canaff: Prosecuted sex crimes for a dozen years in Virginia and New York; now a law
enforcement consultant and trainer in New York City.
Sgt. (Ret.) Mike Davis: Founding supervisor of the domestic violence unit for the
Vancouver, Wash., Police Department.
Sgt. (Ret.) Elizabeth Donegan: Led Austin, Texas, Police Department’s sex crimes unit for
a decade; now coordinates testing of the city’s backlog of rape kits.
Julie Germann: Former Olmsted County prosecutor and founder of Finding the Right, which trains police
and prosecutors on sex crime investigation.
Catherine Johnson: Sexual assault specialist with the U.S. Marine Corps in North Carolina
and former sex crimes detective for the Kansas City, Mo., police department; national trainer on
Sgt. Richard Mankewich: Oversaw more than 14,000 investigations while supervising the Sex
Crimes Squad for the Orange County, Fla., Sheriff’s Office.
Anne Munch: Former prosecutor in
Colorado specializing in sexual assault and domestic violence; former consultant to the U.S.
Department of Justice.
Kevin Randolph: Former sex crimes investigator for the University of Minnesota Police
Myra Strand: Sociologist specializing in sexual-violence prevention; co-founder of Strand
Holistic Innovative Forensic Techniques, Arizona consulting firm.
Russell Strand: Retired criminal
investigator with the U.S. Army; co-founder of Strand Holistic Innovative Forensic Techniques.
Tom Tremblay: Consultant;
former public safety commissioner for the state of Vermont and chief of police in Burlington.
Lt. Elisa Umpierre: Handled hundreds of sexual assault cases as an investigator in
The International Association of Chiefs of Police and leading victim advocate groups have developed a
set of best practices for investigating sexual assault. They include:
Collect all possible physical evidence, including clothing, bedding, cellphone records and
Find witnesses who can describe the victim’s and suspect’s behavior before the incident.
Interview “outcry witnesses” — friends and relatives in whom the victim or suspect might have
confided soon after the incident.
Interview the survivor using trauma-informed techniques, recognizing that a violent assault
can affect a person’s memory. Use open-ended questions such as, “What was going through your
mind when that happened?”
Interview known suspects in person and run criminal background checks.
Because rape survivors often have doubts about proceeding and may be hard to reach, make at
least three attempts to contact them.
Prepare detailed reports using the victim’s own words and documenting everything that
officers saw, heard and did to investigate. Prosecutors say thorough reports can make or
break a sexual assault case.
When appropriate, ask the survivor to try a “pretext call,” a monitored phone call or message
that allows the suspect to admit wrongdoing.
If you've been assaulted
Many rape victims say they were bewildered about what to do after being attacked. Here are some steps
that advocates and prosecutors recommend in the hours and days after a sexual assault.
Get to a safe place, then call 911 and a trusted friend.
Call a hotline or advocacy center and ask them to assign you a victim advocate.
Go to a hospital or clinic as soon as possible and request a sexual assault exam. Take the
clothing you were wearing during the assault and, to preserve DNA evidence, avoid showering
or bathing first. You cannot be denied or charged for the exam. Get an exam even if you
don’t plan to file a police report.
Keep digital evidence such as texts and phone messages.
Photograph injuries, bruising.
Ask your advocate to accompany you to police interviews and other appointments.
Minnesota has a state fund to pay for your medical care, including mental health counseling,
if you report the incident to police.