7 years in prison for man whose DNA matched evidence at scene of 2006 sexual assault

James Willis

MILWAUKEE — A Milwaukee man arrested in connection with a sexual assault that happened back in 2006, after he submitted a DNA sample in a separate case, has been sentenced to prison.

James Willis Jr. on Thursday, Feb. 7 pleaded no contest to two charges — third degree sexual assault and attempted armed robbery, threat of force.

He was then sentenced to serve five years in prison and five years extended supervision on the first conviction, and two years in prison and two years extended supervision on the second conviction, to be served consecutively, for a total of seven years in prison and seven years extended supervision. He was given 679 days credit for time served.

According to prosecutors, in 2017, a sample of Willis’ DNA was taken as part of a separate investigation, and that sample matched DNA evidence collected at the scene of a sexual assault that happened in 2006.

In February of 2006, a woman waited for a bus at 60th and Lisbon. Just before midnight, a man “approached the victim from behind and grabbed her by her arm and shoulder,” prosecutors said. He forced her to go with him into the alley behind a nearby store. When she tried to scream, she told police he “covered her mouth” and told her, “shut up or I’ll kill you.”

The man sexually assaulted the victim and also demanded her purse. Police collected DNA evidence they believe he left behind that night, but for the next 11 years, they could not determine whose DNA it was.

The big break came in the fall of 2016, when Willis pleaded guilty to a disorderly conduct charge from an incident in the spring. Following the misdemeanor conviction, he provided a DNA sample. It matched the evidence found in the alley in 2006. Police arrested Willis for the crime.

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