KBI says DNA in rape case against Illinois basketball player was inconclusive; defense expert says it excludes defendant

Share this post or save for later

The jury trial of a University of Illinois basketball player accused of raping a woman in a Lawrence bar in September brought testimony from two of KU’s star players on Wednesday, along with an in-depth analysis of the state’s physical evidence — or lack thereof — in the case.

Terrence Shannon Jr., 23, had come to town to watch the Illini football team play KU. Knowing several KU basketball players, Shannon made plans to attend the game with a fellow Illini basketball teammate and a graduate assistant whose job it was to make sure the players stayed safe and returned to Illinois on schedule.

After the game, Shannon and his companions went to the Jayhawk Cafe (The Hawk), 1340 Ohio St. He has been accused of groping and digitally penetrating a woman without her consent just after midnight Sept. 9 in the bar’s Martini Room.

Shannon was arrested in December and charged with rape for engaging in intercourse with a person who did not consent or who was overcome by force or fear, or, in the alternative, one count of aggravated sexual battery for touching a person over the age of 16 who did not consent under circumstances when the victim was overcome by force or fear.

Andrea Albright/Lawrence Times Douglas County Assistant District Attorney Samantha Foster questions a witness in court, June 12, 2024.

The events of that evening were recounted again Wednesday morning, this time by the friend and roommate of the woman who reported being assaulted. The two had attended the Kansas-Illinois football game on Sept. 8 before going out to local bars to celebrate a KU victory.

The friend said she and the woman, 18 at the time, went to the Hawk at approximately 10:30 p.m. but stayed only about 30 minutes before going to a downtown bar to look for friends. The friend said the two were “mostly looking for a crowd,” and returned to The Hawk at approximately 12:15 a.m.

According to the friend’s testimony, she and the woman walked through the Martini Room in the basement of The Hawk, but her friend was becoming overwhelmed by the packed crowd and noise in the room. She testified that the two were about to leave when a man gestured to her friend indicating that he wanted her to come to him.

“She said she thought he was cute,” the friend testified. “I told her to go over there. I figured it would make her night more fun.”

Andrea Albright/Lawrence Times Terrence Shannon Jr. watches as attorneys confer with Judge Amy Hanley, June 12, 2024, Douglas County District Court.

Both women have testified that they recognized KU basketball player Kevin McCullar Jr. near the bar in a back corner of the Martini Room and could see other athletes in the same area. A friend and KU football player bought each of the women a mixed drink, but both testified to only having a few sips of the drink before the alleged incident took place.

The friend said the scene inside the bar was so chaotic she didn’t realize the woman was in distress. In fact, she said, she led the woman out one door of the Martini Room and back into another because she was planning to say goodbye to others before leaving. The next thing she knew, she said in court, the woman had “bolted.”

“One minute she was there, and she was gone the next,” the friend said. “The second I realized she was gone I followed her.”

Video played in court on Tuesday showed the women walking back upstairs after the incident to exit the bar. The friend can be seen trailing behind the woman who reported the assault, keeping a hand on her back as they walk up the stairs.

Once they were outside, the friend said, the woman broke down as she explained what had happened.

“I just get her in the car and drive home,” the friend said. “She was crying. I held her hand as I drove.”

Andrea Albright/Lawrence Times Douglas County Senior Assistant District Attorney Ricardo Leal speaks with defense attorney Mark Sutter during a break in court proceedings, June 12, 2024.

Testimony from the prosecution’s final witness came from Jennifer Hewitt, a forensic analyst with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. Hewitt, who testified via Zoom while out of state, said the swabs collected from the woman’s sexual assault nurse examiner — or SANE — evidence kit yielded little information.

Hewitt explained to the jury that touch DNA is biological evidence derived from skin cells left behind when an individual touches an item. This type of evidence can be picked up through casual contact or transfer, such as from sitting down somewhere or brushing against something. In this case, swabs samples were taken from the woman’s vagina and vulva as well as her inner thighs, buttocks and underwear.

Hewitt said that almost all the swabs contained DNA material that was too small to be tested or amplified for further investigation. Only the swabs taken from the woman’s buttocks yielded any information, and it was too limited to make any kind of identification.

Upon cross-examination, Hewitt specified that although partial DNA samples could sometimes be used to narrow down potential contributors during an investigation, the KBI’s threshold standards made it impossible for her to draw any conclusions. She said that although she had found traces of touch DNA from several male sources, or “Y mixtures,” on the swabs, she was unable to develop the information further in a way that could possibly eliminate suspects in the investigation.

“Other laboratories may be able to do that,” Hewitt said. “We don’t perform exclusions on indistinguishable Y mixtures.”

The state, represented by Senior Assistant District Attorney Ricardo Leal and Assistant DA Samantha Foster, rested its case before lunch on Wednesday. Leal and Foster stepped in last week for DA Suzanne Valdez and Deputy DA Joshua Seiden, who were prosecuting a sexual assault case that ran simultaneously with Shannon’s.

Andrea Albright/Lawrence Times Defense attorney Tricia Bath speaks with Assistant District Attorney Samantha Foster, June 12, 2024, in Douglas County District Court.

The defense’s first witness after the prosecution rested its case was Stephanie Beine, senior forensic scientist at Forensic Advising, LLC, in Wentzville, Missouri. Beine said she was able to take the raw data generated by the KBI and generate more specific information utilizing systems that can analyze limited evidence at a lower threshold.

Of the swabs sent to the KBI, all fell into three categories: biological material containing no male DNA, biological material containing male DNA with limited profile information, and biological material too limited to warrant further testing.

In this case, swabs from the inner thigh and buttocks produced small amounts of incomplete biological information making it impossible to create a DNA profile for a suspect.

However, a comparison of the limited DNA profile against a known sample gathered from Shannon produced enough data to exclude him as a contributor to any biological material on the swabs taken from those areas.

Returning KU senior center Hunter Dickinson and McCullar, a former guard who is expected to be among the top picks in the NBA draft later this month, were both questioned by defense attorney Tricia Bath on Wednesday about their memories of the evening.

Dickinson said he had known Shannon for several years after he attended a recruitment dinner with Shannon while Dickinson played for the University of Michigan. McCullar said he met Shannon when the two played together at Texas Tech University.

Andrea Albright/Lawrence Times Terrence Shannon Jr. sits with defense attorneys Mark Sutter and Tricia Bath as they listen to instructions from Judge Amy Hanley, June 12, 2024 in Douglas County District Court.

Both men said they had no recollection of Shannon being drunk or behaving inappropriately. Dickinson, who said he had “had a good amount to drink,” said he and the other basketball players stayed in the back corner of the Martini Room to party with teammates rather than seek women. Shannon was with his own teammate and standing near the KU players.

“He was kind of doing his own thing,” Dickinson said. “Whenever I had interaction with him, he seemed to have control of himself.”

McCullar, who testified via Zoom and said he was the unofficial host of the evening, echoed similar memories of the night at The Hawk. He had no recollection of any women being specifically near Shannon, and said he saw no interactions with women that would have stood out to him.

McCullar said he left the bar that night having no idea that an incident had occurred. In fact, he said, he heard nothing at all until he saw a social media post from ESPN announcing the charges against Shannon.

“I found out on Twitter like five months after,” he said.

McCullar said he wasn’t contacted by a Lawrence police detective until February or March 2024. He said she had no recollection of any women rubbing up against Shannon or being questioned by the LPD about that kind of interaction.

“Yeah,” he said. “I would have remembered that.”

The defense called several additional witnesses in support of Shannon on Wednesday, including the teammate and the graduate assistant who accompanied him to Lawrence and were with him at the Hawk the evening of the alleged incident.

They also called Reba Joe Daniels, an instructor and academic adviser at the University of Illinois who has known and worked with Shannon for approximately two years. Daniels called Shannon a “kind soul” and “gentle giant” who is concerned about the well-being of others. She said she has a hard time reconciling the person she knows with the charges levied against Shannon.

“Even to this day I’m shocked that we’re sitting here,” Daniels said. “The headlines don’t match the Terrence Shannon I know.”

The final two witnesses presented by defense attorneys on Wednesday were a former Leawood police officer and retired investigator for the Johnson County district attorney’s office, and a computer forensics expert from a Denver-based digital evidence specialist offering analysis and expert witness testimony.

Investigator Bill Burke, who is now employed by Bath & Edmonds, one of the firms defending Shannon, detailed his work on the case, including photos and measurements taken inside the Martini Room and assessment of video surveillance at The Hawk.

During cross-examination on Tuesday, defense attorney Mark Sutter questioned LPD Detective Joshua Leitner about his investigation, asking why he hadn’t been more exhaustive in gathering that kind of information. Leitner explained that the sketch he had made during an interview with the woman making the allegations was sufficient because he had been inside the Martini Room more than 50 times and was familiar with the scene.

Sutter asked Burke why he took photos or measurements if he had been to the location of a crime scene many times before.

“I may know what it looks like, but hopefully the case progresses to a jury, and I want them to know what I was looking at at the time,” Burke said.

Computer forensics expert John Mallery testified not only to information gathered by the LPD from the alleged victim’s phone, but also to data he retrieved and analyzed after a subpoena was issued to extract information from her friend’s phone.

Mallery corroborated LPD analysis that showed the physical location movements of the woman throughout the evening of Sept. 8 and into the early morning hours of Sept. 9. What he also found were group messages shared between the woman, the friend she went with to The Hawk that night, and two additional people who were their roommates at the time.

Texts from the evening of Sept. 9, hours after the woman had undergone a SANE examination at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, show the roommates exchanging texts looking for each other at various Lawrence drinking establishments including the Martini Room of The Hawk.

Additional texts between the roommates dated Dec. 28 show their responses to a text from the woman that provided a link to an ESPN story announcing Shannon’s arrest. One roommate is shown to have sent “OMG,” and another wrote “you got him.” Additional texts said “YUPPPP YESSSIR” and “Hella.”

Minutes after the initial Dec. 28 exchange, one of the roommates sent a text saying “got his ass” followed by two emojis with dollar signs on their extended tongues.

On cross-examination, Leal asked Mallery who had sent that specific message.

“It says sissy,” Mallery answered.

“Not [the woman]?” Leal asked.

“No,” Mallery said.

Testimony is scheduled to begin at 9:45 a.m. Thursday. Closing arguments are scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Prosecutors and defense attorneys will each be limited to 30 minutes.

Shannon remains out of custody after posting a $50,000 surety bond in December.

All arrestees and defendants in criminal cases should be presumed not guilty unless they are convicted.

If our local journalism matters to you, please help us keep doing this work.
Don’t miss a beat … Click here to sign up for our email newsletters

Click here to learn more about our newsletters first

Andrea Albright (she/her), reporter, can be reached at aalbright (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

Related coverage:

KBI says DNA in rape case against Illinois basketball player was inconclusive; defense expert says it excludes defendant

Share this post or save for later

The jury trial of a University of Illinois basketball player accused of raping a woman in a Lawrence bar brought testimony from two of KU’s star players today, along with an analysis of the state’s physical evidence — or lack thereof — in the case.

Resources for survivors

If you have experienced sexual violence or trauma, please seek the help that’s right for you. There are many options available, and you don’t have to file a police report if you don’t want to.

Get 24/7 help in Lawrence: The Sexual Trauma & Abuse Care Center
  • Call 785-843-8985 to reach an advocate, 24/7. (Consider saving that number in your phone in case you or someone you know ever needs it.)
  • After an assault: What are my options? Check this page for detailed information about
    • talking to an advocate,
    • going to the hospital,
    • making a police report,
    • and/or talking to a counselor or therapist.
  • On campus? Check this page for specific resources for the University of Kansas, Haskell Indian Nations University, Baker University, Ottawa University and more.
Resources on KU’s campus:
  • Contact the CARE (Campus Assistance, Resource, and Education) Coordinator: Students can make an appointment by email, care@ku.edu, or by calling 785-864-9255. It’s free, confidential and voluntary to talk with the CARE Coordinator. All genders welcome. Read more here.
  • Find more KU campus resources at this link. Specific information about sexual assault exams can be found here.
  • Direct message KU CARE Sisters on Instagram. You don’t need to be affiliated with Greek Life to reach out and/or receive assistance. (Note: CARE Sisters provide peer support and education, but this is not a 24/7 service like others listed here.)
Domestic violence situations: The Willow Domestic Violence Center
  • Reach the Willow for help 24/7 at 785-843-3333.
  • Find more resources on the Willow’s website at this link.
More resources
  • StrongHearts Native Helpline: Call 1-844-7NATIVE (762-8483) for 24/7 safe, confidential and anonymous domestic and sexual violence support for Native Americans and Alaska Natives that is culturally appropriate.
  • National hotline: Call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), text “START” to 88788, and/or visit thehotline.org to chat and learn more, 24/7.

Latest Lawrence news:


Previous Article

Douglas County Commission approves moving $27.5K to health department for suicide prevention work

Next Article

KU program to offer free assistance to complete FAFSA applications