In 1993, a housekeeper was cleaning a home in Washington state when two men broke in and sexually assaulted her. A tip led police to include two local men in a lineup —Larry Davis and Alan Northrup
. Although the victim was blindfolded and didn’t get a good look at the perpetrators, she would eventually point out Northrup and Davis in flawed identification procedures. The two men would spend more than 16 years behind bars before DNA testing proved their innocence.
On the morning of January 11, 1993, the victim was cleaning a home in La Center, Washington, when two men broke in. They struggled with the woman before blindfolding her with tape. They tied her legs to a kitchen table, threatened her with a knife and cut off her clothes. One man penetrated her with a foreign object before raping her, while the other held her down. The men left immediately after the attack and nothing was stolen from the house.
Because the victim had been blindfolded for the attack, the only detail she could recall for certain about her attackers was that one had dark hair, and one was blonde. The victim was examined in a hospital after the attack and a rape kit was collected. Other evidence was collected from the scene of the crime.
The Investigation and Identification
The police released descriptions of the perpetrators to the public: two men, one with blond hair and one with dark hair. Someone called in, stating that Larry W. Davis and his friend, Alan G. Northrop, were friends in the area who fit the profile. They immediately became suspects and were placed in photo arrays shown to the victim.
Despite telling police she could only remember the perpetrators’ hair color, the victim made a tentative photo identification of Davis, but did not identify a second person. She was later presented with a live lineup that included both men and she identified both of them as the attackers. Davis and Northrop were the only suspects who appeared in both the photo and live lineups, potentially making their faces more familiar to her and increasing the chances of her recognizing them. Additionally, a friend of the victim’s had provided her with details about the suspects who were questioned, right before the lineups occurred.
Based on the victim’s positive identification, Davis and Northrup were charged with committing the attack. Northrup was charged as the rapist and Davis as the accomplice.
The two men were tried separately in 1993. Both defendants maintained their innocence and argued that they had been misidentified. The prosecution relied heavily on the victim’s identification to make their case. No physical evidence connected either man to the crime scene.
In May of 1993, the jury found Larry Davis guilty of first-degree kidnapping, first-degree burglary, and being an accomplice to first-degree rape. He was sentenced to 20 years and 6 months in prison. Two months later, a different jury found Alan Northrop guilty of first-degree kidnapping, first-degree burglary, and first-degree rape. He was sentenced to 23 years and 6 months.
Post-Conviction and Exoneration
Davis and Northrop contacted the Innocence Project Northwest by mail in 2000. The state’s DNA testing statute at the time gave prosecutors the ultimate decision on whether to grant DNA testing in closed cases. The Clark County Prosecutor’s Office opposed the tests for almost six years while Davis and Northrop waited behind bars. The law was changed in 2005 to give judges the power to order post-conviction testing. The Innocence Project Northwest filed a motion in 2006 seeking DNA tests on evidence from the case.
Clark County Superior Court Judge Robert Harris (the original trial court judge) granted testing. After the court ordered testing, however, the shirt and pants worn by the victim during the assault were destroyed by the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, before DNA testing could be conducted on the evidence. Tests proceeded on other crime scene evidence, however, including swabs in the rape kit that contained sperm cells and fingernail scrapings taken from the victim after the crime. The results revealed consistent profiles of two unknown men, excluding Northrup and Davis. Further testing in 2009 showed that the victim’s boyfriend was also not the source of the foreign male profiles.
Davis and Northrup continued to fight for exoneration based on these results. Davis was released on probation in January 2010, three years before the expected termination of his sentence. Four months later, on April 21, 2010, Judge Diane Woolard overturned the men’s convictions based on the DNA results. On July 14, 2010, prosecutors officially dismissed the charges against Larry Davis and Alan Northrop and they were exonerated.
Upon exoneration, Northrop, 45, got engaged to a high school friend, and planned to spend time with his three children and grandchild. Davis, 53, works at a construction company in Ridgefield. The two men are still friends and told reporters that they were looking forward to rebuilding their lives in the free world.