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Utah Supreme Court upholds rape and robbery convictions

Published November 22, 2013 9:42 pm

Courts • Inmate is serving time for 1996 case; charges in killing of U. student dismissed last year.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Utah Supreme Court on Friday upheld rape and robbery convictions for a man who, at one time, was charged with the murder University of Utah student.

Donald Eugene Younge, now 47, was charged with capital murder and eight other felonies in connection with the 1999 stabbing death of 22-year-old drama student Amy Quinton at her apartment. But the charges were dismissed last year due to what prosecutors called evidentiary issues.

Meanwhile, Younge had been sentenced in 2010 to spend up to life in prison for the November 1996 sexual assault and robbery of another U of U student, a 23-year-old woman who was attacked in an alley while walking home from class.

The woman did not know her attacker and could provide only a vague physical description. A DNA profile was created from evidence collected during a rape exam, but no match was immediately found.

Four years later, as the statute of limitations neared, prosecutors filed aggravated sexual assault and robbery charges against "John Doe, an unknown male," and included the DNA profile as part of the identification.

In 2002, the John Doe DNA profile was matched to Younge, who was being held at an Illinois jail on charges linking him to the murders of three women and the attempted murder of a fourth.

Salt Lake County prosecutors subsequently charged Younge — by name — in the rape case, but he was not extradited to Utah until 2009, after the Illinois murder charges were dismissed due to questions regarding the honesty of the crime lab technician in the case.

In Utah, Younge was convicted of the rape and robbery at a December 2009 jury trial in 3rd District Court.

His attorneys later appealed, arguing in part that the statute of limitations had expired because the initial charging document did not identify him by name.

But the Supreme Court justices stated in their Friday opinion that a DNA profile "is as close to an infallible measure of identity as science can presently obtain."

In 2009, Younge was charged with Quinton's slaying.

There were no fingerprints or DNA evidence linking Younge to the Quinton's death, but two survivors of the episode identified him in court at a November preliminary hearing.

Lynn Drebes testified that just after midnight on Aug. 3, 1999, Younge appeared in the apartment she shared with Quinton near 100 South and 800 East.

Younge demanded money, then stabbed Drebes' friend, Erin Warn, in the abdomen before going to Quinton's bedroom and stabbing her once in the heart, according to testimony.

In November 2012, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill asked for charges in the murder case to be dismissed without prejudice, meaning they can be refiled in the future.

Gill said at the time that as the case progressed, inconsistencies arose, particularly dealing with suppression issues and issues dealing with identification.

Younge's attorney, Michael Misner, said at the time that he felt the slaying was likely connected to Younge because he had been in the area at the time and was facing charges in the rape case.

"Whatever Donald Younge has done in other times of his life, he just didn't commit this crime," Misner said of the homicide. "They just had the wrong guy."

shunt@sltrib.com