DNA frees man accused of raping woman

Posted: Friday, November 01, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- An Anchorage man has been freed after DNA evidence showed he wasn't the person who raped a 19-year-old student.

Joseph Coolidge Jr., 36, was jailed in late September on charges that he raped and choked a student on the campus of the University of Alaska Anchorage. He spent 10 days behind bars.

University police now say DNA evidence shows they had the wrong man.

''We had two witnesses who positively identified him. We're very grateful for the DNA technology and that an innocent person didn't have to spend any more time in jail than he did,'' said UAA Police Chief Dale Pittman.

Semen was collected from the victim, and police were able to get a DNA profile from it. When the DNA was put into a database, it came back with a match for Michael Arthur Stephan, 34, who has five indecent exposure convictions on his record, police say.

Stephan was charged with first-degree sexual assault Oct. 11. His trial is set for Jan. 20.

The woman was found unconscious after the rape and assault around 7 a.m. on Sept. 27. As a result of the assault, she has lost the use of her left arm.

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