A Texas law that went into effect three years ago played a key role in the apprehension of a 26-year-old man who was convicted of aggravated sexual assault in a Tarrant County Court on Wednesday.
HB 3106, popularly referred to as Molly Jane’s Law, requires law enforcement agencies to enter information about suspects in assault cases into a database that is available to law enforcement statewide. The database has existed since the 1980s, but before HB 3106 had not been consistently used.
Now, Jessie DeWayne Ray has become the first person sentenced thanks to the law, which helped agencies in Tyler, Texas, connect with cold case detectives in Tarrant County to identify the suspect as an individual wanted in connection with a 2019 sexual assault in Arlington.
The database also led investigators to identify Ray as a suspect in a similar case in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Ray pleaded guilty to the charges against him and was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Ray was already serving a life sentence arising from his conviction in a drug manufacturing and distribution ring case out of Tyler. He is still facing charges stemming from the Oklahoma City case, for which he will be tried next.
In 2019, a woman was walking on a trail in Arlington Heights Park when a man stopped her with a gun and sexually assaulted her. The man recorded the assault on his cellphone. Despite a description given by the victim, law enforcement was unable to make an arrest, and the case went cold.
“Unfortunately, there were no investigative leads,” said Stephanie Simpson with the Tarrant County DA’s Office. “It was stalled in May of 2020, and it stalled until Arlington PD received a phone call from Tyler PD.”
Ray was later arrested in Tyler on unrelated charges. Investigators found a video of a sexual assault on his cellphone, but there were no details to identify where the assault occurred.
But when Tyler police input details of the video into the FBI’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP) database, it led investigators to contact Tarrant County investigators, who were able to confirm the assault in the video was the one that had occurred in Arlington and connect it to Ray.
“It is extremely satisfying to know Molly Jane’s Law provided a way for the agencies involved to communicate with one another in order to identify this offender,” said Tracy Matheson, Molly Jane’s mother, who was in court for the sentencing. “Serial rapists must be held accountable so that lives can be saved. He may be the first; he will not be the last.”
Molly Jane Matheson was a Tarrant County woman who was sexually assaulted and murdered by Reginald Kimbro in 2017.
Though Kimbro was quickly identified as the suspect, police only became aware that he had a previous history of sexual assaults as they dug deeper into their investigation. Kimbro was linked to the sexual assault of four other women, but their cases had not been filed, the U.S. Sun reported.
Kimbro was convicted of four assaults and two homicides — including Matheson’s — in 2022.
State Representative Craig Goldman of Fort Worth authored the bill, which went into effect in 2019.
“This law is a key resource for law enforcement officers investigating cases of sexual assault,” Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney Sharen Wilson said. “Rapists can be caught, arrested, and prosecuted before they attack again.”