"My life has been a disaster."
That's what 37-year-old Michelle Bennett, who was kidnapped, shot, and left for dead in the desert near Apache Junction in January of 1999 told reporters at a press conference at Phoenix Police Headquarters this afternoon.
As we reported earlier, the man police believe attacked Bennett was arrested yesterday -- 11 years after the incident.
Phoenix police say they matched the DNA of 38-year-old Clayton Roinuse to DNA recovered from the crime scene on January 6, 1999.
What Phoenix police seemed slightly less-inclined to discuss with reporters is that Roinuse has been sitting in an Arizona prison since 2003 -- for crimes similar to the ones alleged against Bennett -- and so has his DNA.
Prison inmates are required to give a DNA sample to authorities when they're incarcerated. That DNA is then put into a database. In other words, law enforcement's had Roinuse's DNA in a database for years, but nobody checked that database against DNA recovered at the crime scene until now.
We asked Phoenix Sergeant Steve Martos why it took so long to make the connection between Roinuse's DNA and the DNA recovered from the attack on Bennett. He says he's not sure what, exactly, was the hold up on this case. But, he says, in the last 18 months the Phoenix Police Department has revamped its cold case squad.
He says the new additions include increased personnel and access to better technology, which have helped detectives track down suspects years after they commit a crime.
It seems to be working -- since April, the Phoenix Police Department has arrested suspects in several cold cases, including the April arrest of a suspect in a murder that happened in 1994, and two suspects in a 2005 homicide. Read about those cases here and here.
In August, the Phoenix P.D. also assisted the Tempe Police Department in tracking down a suspect in the 1970 murder of a 4-year-old girl. Read about that here.
As for Bennett's case: better late than never.
Roinuse is currently serving a life sentence. Bennett says she knows he can't possibly face any additional time for what he allegedly did to her, but says it's a relief to know they found the person who may have attacked her.
In her attack, she says, she suffered a partial stroke and paralysis from when a bullet allegedly fired by Roinuse grazed her head. Her wrist was shattered when she put her hands in front of her face to block the bullet.
Her speech is slightly irregular because of her injuries, and she arrived to the press conference in wheel chair, which she says she only uses occasionally. But she says she's still tough, and wants Roinuse to know it.
"I'm still here," she wants Roinuse to know. "He may have killed my spirit a little."
She says she intends to attend Roinuse's court appearances. She wants the "satisfaction" of standing up in front of him and saying "I'm still here."
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