June 29, 2001

A breakthrough in Patty rape case
Madison police detective received tips that could have led to suspect

By Bill Lueders

The name of the man now implicated in the 1997 rape of a woman named Patty, whose ordeal has been chronicled in Isthmus, was provided early on to Madison Police Det. Tom Woodmansee as a possible suspect, but he apparently did not investigate.

 Patty's daughter, Misty, learned shortly after her initial interview with Woodmansee that Joseph J. Bong, 25, the cousin of a longtime friend, had been arrested for robbing a west-side hotel and sexually assaulting the clerk. She says Bong's cousin suggested that she pass his name on to police, which she did.

 "I know that I told [Woodmansee]," says Misty. "I know that I brought Joey's name up."

 Woodmansee's report on the case, which led to criminal charges being filed against Patty for obstructing an officer, notes that he interviewed Misty on Sept. 10, 1997, six days after Patty reported being raped at knifepoint in her east-side Madison home. At that time, the report says, Misty produced a list of names of possible suspects from among her acquaintances that included "Lonnie Alvord."

 Two nights later, Bong and Alonzo Elvord (who is also Bong's cousin) robbed the Wingate Inn with a sawed-off shotgun, during which Bong fondled the terrified clerk's breasts and "attempted to force her head down to the area of his groin," according to the criminal complaint, filed Sept. 22, 1997.

 It was around this time that Misty says she passed Bong's name to Woodmansee. But there is no indication from his report that he looked into it. Woodmansee, at this time, was already pursuing an alternative theory: That Patty fabricated the assault.

 On Oct. 2, the day after Bong and Elvord were arraigned, Woodmansee and Madison Police Det. Linda Draeger got Patty to come in to police headquarters, where they confronted her with their accusation that the rape did not occur. The detectives admittedly used lies and deception, and dredged up sensitive information about Patty's past, to break down her resistance. Eventually, it worked.

 "What do you want to hear?" Patty said, according to Woodmansee's report. "I'll says whatever you want. ...If you're going to drop this, I'll say whatever you want."

Although Patty immediately recanted this confession, it provided the basis for criminal charges against her. The prosecutor, Dane County Asst. District Attorney Jill Karofsky, successfully beat back an effort to have Patty's confession thrown out, declaring in court that "the police officers in this case ought to be proud of what they did."

 The charges against Patty were dropped in August 1998 when DNA tests showed that semen left on bed sheets at the scene but never analyzed did not match anyone Patty knew. Patty subsequently filed a complaint against Woodmansee and Draeger with the Madison Police and Fire Commission, and sued them in federal court. Both actions were dismissed. Patty has spent more than $10,000 defending herself against the criminal charges and pursuing the lawsuit, including paying damages to the city. Patty, who is legally blind and runs her own small business, still has unpaid legal bills.

 Last month, the state Crime Laboratory, reanalyzing the semen sample from Patty's assault using improved technology, matched DNA on file from Bong, who has a long history of criminal and sexually assaultive behavior and matches the physical description that Patty provided of her assailant. The state Division of Criminal Investigation last week obtained fresh DNA samples from Bong, who is serving an 18-year prison term for the 1997 hotel incident. These are now being analyzed, and Bong could be criminally charged for Patty's rape.

 "It's the best news I could wish for," says Patty, noting that it relieves the fear she's lived with that her assailant could return. But she "doesn't think for a moment" that, until this discovery, Woodmansee and others who have branded her a liar and a criminal didn't already know they were wrong.

 Monday's editions of The Capital Times reported that Madison Police Chief Richard Williams is standing by the result of a 1998 state Department of Criminal Investigation probe that he says cleared the Madison detectives involved in Patty's case of any wrongdoing. In fact, the state Division of Criminal Investigation, while it reopened an investigation into the rape itself that led ultimately to Bong's identification, never conducted any review into the propriety of the detectives' actions. The only such probe was done by Williams' former assistant.

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