By Cody Mello-Klein | [email protected]
Jesse Bjerke, a 38-year-old man from Arlington and a former Alexandria INOVA Hospital nurse, was convicted of rape, sexual penetration, abduction with the intent to defile and three counts of the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony on Oct. 18, according to a news release from the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney.
The charges were related to the rape of an Alexandria lifeguard that occurred on Sept. 3, 2016. According to the release, the victim was working at a pool on South Pickett Street when, around 12:30 p.m., a man arrived at the pool asking if he had left his flip-flops there the day before.
After looking around the pool, the victim told the man she hadn’t found them and he left. He returned half an hour later and asked to look for his shoes again, following the victim around the pool and into the pump room where he pointed a gun at her and threatened to shoot her if she didn’t stop screaming, according to the release.
The man put on blue latex gloves, zip-tied the victim’s hands behind her back and put tissues in her mouth to stop her from screaming. He proceeded to strike her in the head several times, rape her and flee the scene, according to the release.
The victim quickly escaped the pump room and called her boyfriend, who called the police. After police arrived on the scene, the victim was taken to Fairfax INOVA Hospital. At the hospital, a DNA profile was developed based on the sperm taken from inside the victim, but a cross-check with law enforcement databases revealed no matches, according to the release.
Hitting dead ends and exhausting all leads, the Alexandria Police Department contracted Parabon Nanolabs to analyze the suspect’s DNA using genetic genealogy. Parabon searched for relatives of the suspect using GEDmatch, a public access site, and, based on the findings, was able to pinpoint Bjerke as a possible suspect, according to the release.
By comparing DNA located on items found outside Bjerke’s home to the DNA found within the victim, APD was able to find a match and arrest Bjerke, according to the release. APD continued the investigation and discovered that Bjerke had been employed as an emergency room nurse at Alexandria INOVA but that he had unexpectedly left work early on Sept. 3. His cell phone had also connected with a cell tower close to the crime scene on that day.
Bjerke is set for sentencing on March 19, 2020 before Alexandria circuit court judge Lisa Kemler. The rape, sexual penetration and abduction charges each carry a maximum life sentence, and the three firearms charges carry a mandatory minimum sentence of 13 years.