A man suspected of raping an 8-year-old in her Billings home in 1987 will go to trial after allegedly going undetected for decades while another man spent years in prison for the crime.
On Friday, Judge Mary Jane Knisely denied a defense motion to dismiss charges against Ronald Dwight Tipton and set the case for trial on Dec. 11.
Jimmy Ray Bromgard was convicted in the case in 1987 and sentenced to 40 years in prison. DNA testing exonerated him in 2002, after he had served 15 years.
Tipton did not surface as the new suspect until 2014, when DNA samples he gave as part of a drug possession charge in Meagher County made a hit on the rape evidence entered in a DNA database. Tipton was charged with three counts of sexual intercourse without consent in 2015.
Tipton’s attorney had asked for the charges to be dismissed, citing the five-year statute of limitations in effect when the crime was committed. He also said a state law on DNA evidence leveraged by prosecutors conflicts with a 2003 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that barred the use of new, and more expansive, laws regarding when a person can be charged from applying retroactively.
But Knisely ruled that the Tipton case is different from the Supreme Court case in question, Stogner v. California. That’s because it entails DNA evidence that was not available previously, and there was no delay in reporting by victims.
Knisely also found that the state DNA law, passed in 2007, was intended to apply retroactively in order to prosecute cold cases, and that failing to apply the state law retroactively would be a “manifest injustice.”
The move is a win for Linda Glantz, the victim of the 1987 rape. In an interview with a Lee Montana reporter earlier this year, Glantz said it was “infuriating” that despite DNA evidence pointing to Tipton, he could go unpunished.
It’s been 30 years since she was raped.
“It’s just ridiculous, you know? It’s just too long for somebody to be out who hasn’t paid for his crime in any way, shape, or form,” she said.
Tipton has been living in White Sulphur Springs. He has also lived outside Montana in the years since the 1987 rape, according to the judge’s Friday filing in the case.
In addition to the drug possession conviction from 2014, Tipton was convicted of theft in Yellowstone County in 1988.