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Legal Issues Stymie Probe of Woman’s Rape

May 5, 2003

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) _ A mentally disabled woman in a group home is more than five months pregnant from a rape, but identification of her attacker has been hampered because she is unable to consent to a DNA test.

The 22-year-old woman, who has no family, is too disabled to speak. She was abandoned as a child and has lived at the small home for 19 years.

``She cannot even say yes or no,″ Detective Rick Salcedo said. ``She has the verbal communications skills of an infant.″

Police plan to seek DNA samples from two suspects, but without consent from the woman or a guardian they might have to wait for the baby’s birth to get a tissue sample for comparison.

The state Department of Children & Families plans to ask a judge to appoint a guardian to represent the woman’s interests. The agency is not the woman’s legal guardian because she is over 18, said department spokeswoman Yvonne Vassel.

Because of the pregnancy, the DCF has suspended the home’s license and is investigating, as are police. Authorities won’t identify the group home to protect the victim’s identity.

The home’s caregiver, a woman in her 70s, reported the pregnancy to the department, which notified police.

Vassel said the home, which has at least seven clients, had not had any serious violations previously. It was last inspected in November.

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