Prentiss Police Department and Mississippi Forensics Laboratory Team with Othram to Identify the Suspect in a 2020 Sexual Assault

Derrick Washington has been identified as the likely perpetrator that assaulted a woman in Prentiss, Mississippi, in 2020.

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Published May 03, 2024 by Michael Vogen
Media Inquiries


In January 2020, a woman was attacked on First Street in Prentiss, Mississippi. Prentiss is a small town with a population of approximately 1,000 residents situated in Jefferson Davis County and is located approximately an hour’s drive from the state capital of Jackson. An unknown male assailant pulled the woman into an abandoned house, attacked her with pepper spray, and sexually assaulted her. Officials with the Prentiss Police Department were alerted of the incident and the woman was transported to the Jefferson Davis Community Hospital for examination. At the hospital, a sex assault kit examination was performed, and DNA evidence was collected. This evidence was submitted to the Mississippi Forensics Laboratory for analysis in hopes that the unknown attacker could be identified.

Following the attack, the victim was interviewed and she provided a statement which included a description of her attacker. Using this information, in conjunction with surveillance footage from the area of the attack, Prentiss Police identified a person of interest in the case. A six-panel line-up was developed to include the person of interest, which led to the arrest of a man who was known to live near the crime scene. A DNA sample was collected from the man and an STR profile was developed for comparison to the DNA evidence collected as part of the sex assault examination at Jefferson Davis Community Hospital. It was determined that the man was not the attacker, and he was excluded from consideration. With no additional leads, the investigation stalled. The rapist could not be identified and the case went cold.

In June 2023, the Prentiss Police Department, in collaboration with the Mississippi Forensics Laboratory, submitted forensic evidence to Othram in The Woodlands, Texas in hopes that advanced DNA testing could help to name the unidentified male suspect in the case, providing answers and justice for the victim. Othram scientists successfully developed a DNA extract from the forensic evidence. Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing® was utilized to build a comprehensive DNA profile for the unknown suspect. Othram's in-house forensic genetic genealogy team used the profile in a genetic genealogy search to develop new investigative leads in the case. These investigative leads were returned to the Prentiss Police Department for a follow-up investigation.

Chief Richard Browning with the Prentiss Police Department directed the follow-up investigation, which led to potential genetic relatives of the man, including individuals with the surname “Washington”. Chief Browning was familiar with the Washington family who lived in the area as he had assisted the Jefferson Davis Sheriff’s Department in a murder investigation where a man named Derrick Washington was killed by gunshot in December 2020. As part of the follow-up investigation, Chief Browning learned that Derrick Washington lived on First Street in Prentiss at the time of the assault in January of 2020, just twelve months prior to his murder.

The victim in this case really wanted to know who did this to her.
-Chief Richard Browning
As the investigation progressed, Derrick Washington became a person of interest in the sexual assault case. Using standard forensic STR testing, the Mississippi Forensics Laboratory compared a profile from a DNA sample collected during Washington’s autopsy to a profile developed from a DNA sample that was collected from the victim’s sex assault examination. This comparison confirmed that Derrick Washington was the person who sexually assaulted the victim in the abandoned house on First Street in Prentiss on January 15, 2020.

Chief Browning stated, “The victim in this case really wanted to know who did this to her. We kept in contact with each other through the years and I was so happy to finally tell her the case was solved. Although she will never be able to get courtroom justice, she now has closure.”

Funding to support this case was provided by Mississippi native and philanthropist Carla Davis, who is committed to resolving the backlog of cold cases in Mississippi.

Help fund another case Your contributions pay for lab supplies and research tools

Michael Vogen

Michael Vogen

Director of Case Management

2829 Technology Forest Blvd Suite 100, The Woodlands, Texas 77381

Michael works with law enforcement agencies throughout the United States and Canada on “unsolvable“ cases that can benefit from advanced DNA testing methods. He helps these agencies use cutting edge DNA sequencing and new forensic techniques to develop investigative leads for their cases.

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About Othram Inc.

Othram is the world’s first private DNA laboratory built specifically to apply the power of modern parallel sequencing to forensic evidence. Othram’s scientists are experts at ... Read morerecovery, enrichment, and analysis of human DNA from trace quantities of degraded or contaminated materials. Founded in 2018, and located in The Woodlands, Texas, our team works with academic researchers, forensic scientists, medical examiners, and law enforcement agencies to achieve results when other approaches have failed. Follow Othram on Twitter @OthramTech or visit to learn how we can help you with your case. With anyone can make a difference and help solve the next cold case.