COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (WOWT) - A federal jury convicted a Pacific Junction man this week of assaulting and kidnapping two teen girls in 2003 in downtown Omaha with the intent to engage in sexual activity.
Myron Lee Brandon, 43, was found guilty after a three-day trial presided over by U.S. District Court Senior Judge James E. Gritzner, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Iowa. Brandon’s sentencing hearing is set for March 2 in Council Bluffs.
Court documents state that on June 21, 2003, Brandon offered to give the 14- and 15-year-old girls a ride from 24th and Leavenworth streets to an Omaha location but he instead took them to rural Iowa.
“On a rural road outside Pacific Junction, Brandon brandished a knife before sexually assaulting both victims and used a cigarette to burn each of them on the breast area,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office release states.
The teens fled after he started throwing gasoline at them in the field, court documents state.
“The victims escaped from Brandon and managed to walk to Interstate 29 where they were picked up by a motorist and taken to safety,” the release states.
While the investigation into the incident began the next day, Brandon wasn’t arrested until February 2020. Despite the medical and DNA evidence collected from the victims, authorities were unable to identify a suspect, so the evidence was placed in storage.
More than a decade later, in April 2015, the state Attorney General’s Office launched the Iowa Sexual Assault Kit Initiative designed to re-examine DNA evidence from kits collected during initial investigations of old cases in order to identify suspects. The teens’ kits entered that process in July 2018, and Brandon was identified as the suspect in that case in February 2020 from the Iowa Sex Offender Registry.
The first conviction in Iowa using DNA evidence processed through the kit program occurred in Dallas County, Iowa, in 2019, but Brandon’s was the first jury trial to achieve a conviction with the help of SAKI.
As of Thursday, the program has tested 1,606 kits, entered 557 DNA profiles into databases, and has achieved 294 hits to those databases, according to the Iowa Department of Justice’s SAKI website tally. SAKI is funded by $3 million in federal grants awarded by the U.S. Department of Justice to the Iowa DOJ.
The Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s Office, Council Bluffs Police Department, Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, and the Omaha Police Department, assisted in the investigation with the assistance of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Iowa AG’s Office.