It’s been just over one month since K’vaughn Hines was given a clean slate in life, though he said it has been a constant struggle trying to rid his mind of a brutally violent crime he said he never committed.
Hines, 19, of Mount Rainier was charged with first-degree rape and a slew of related charges Jan. 6 after he was identified as a suspect in a violent gang rape of a 24-year-old woman near the Greenbelt Metro Station on Dec. 17.
He spent more than four months behind bars and another month on house arrest before his criminal record was wiped clean by the results of DNA tests that did not match DNA samples taken from the incident, which his attorney said proves his innocence. His charges were officially dropped June 29 as were the charges against Sheldon Sneed, 19, who had also been given the same charges and was in prison for the same amount of time in the case. DNA testing also proved Sneed’s innocence, according to James Shalleck, Hines’ defense attorney.
Shalleck said if it wasn’t for the ability to test DNA in criminal cases, Hines may still be in prison.
“This is a case of an example of why DNA testing is so important. If innocent people can be exonerated, it’s worth the inconvenience to take a sample from somebody,” Shalleck said. “When I visited him in jail, I could see his frustration. Many say they didn’t do it and are still convicted. This is just a case that just cries out for the need of more DNA testing.”
Calls to John McKenna, Sneed’s defense attorney in the case, were not returned for comment.
Calls to Prince George’s County prosecutor Franklin Shelton, who handled the case against Hines, were not immediately returned Tuesday.
Hines said he and Sneed were identified as suspects in the rape after a witness saw them at the Metro station the night of the incident and testified they were behind the attacks. Hines said he and Sneed had just gotten off a Metro railcar after visiting a friend and were not at the scene of the crime. Shalleck said surveillance footage at the station could not clearly identify the two. Hines said he was facing possible life in prison if he had been convicted on all the charges. He was denied bail twice, according to online Prince George’s court records.
“At the first point, I thought I was going to go home because I didn’t do it,” Hines said. “A month passed, and I had a bond hearing but was given no bail. After a second bond review, no bail again. At that point, I was not going home and the charges said life. I was trying to get used to being in jail for rest of my life. I wanted to commit suicide.”
Hines said he was faced with death threats and fights while in prison and said there were family members and friends who did not believe his innocence, noting that some people still do not look at him the same way.
Hines’ background is free from any criminal activity, including traffic violations, according online Maryland district court records.
He said he still struggles to move past the experience and said he knows it’s still in the back of many of his family members’ minds whether he was truly involved in the rape.
Hines said when he was in jail awaiting a trial in circuit court and for evidence to be processed, he was kicked out of his apartment, he had to give his dog away and he lost his job. He said he has since moved in with his grandmother in Mount Rainier and now has a new job, though he would not disclose where he was working for fear of harassment by some who may still believe he is guilty.
He said while his charges took away five months from his life and caused him emotional harm, he is thankful for the DNA testing and for being released from incarceration.
“I lost five months of my life. I’m emotionally gone. Sometimes I just sit it in the dark, but I’m just going to take my blessings and run with it because it could have been way worse,” he said.