Survivor says ‘court system has failed’ as Oregon sexual assault kit backlog left case unsolved for 15 years

Zane Sparling / Oregonlive.com (TNS)

Audryanna Waldron has waited half her life for closure.

Waldron, now 30, was just 15 when she said she was sexually assaulted near the Lloyd Center in northeast Portland on February 3, 2007. Her sexual assault kit took the dust for nearly a decade before finally being tested in 2016 as part of a backlog of at least 5,000 untested kits across Oregon.

The man implicated in the DNA evidence, Ricky Alexander Harrison, faces a recommended sentence of 5 years and 10 months in prison as part of a plea deal, although a judge could decide otherwise.

“It’s been too long,” Gresham resident Waldron told The Oregonian/OregonLive. “Because of the severity of my impact on me all this time, mentally and emotionally, I was beginning to doubt that I could even handle this ordeal.”

The Oregonian/OregonLive does not usually name people who have been sexually assaulted, but Waldron has spoken publicly about his case and agreed to be named.

Harrison, who was 28 at the time of the incident, was charged in early 2019 with multiple counts of first-degree sodomy and second-degree sexual abuse. He did not contest a count of attempted first degree sodomy on Tuesday and will be formally sentenced on Feb. 15, according to filings in Multnomah County Circuit Court.

Waldron said the officer who originally questioned her for “a few minutes” in 2007 didn’t seem to take her seriously. She said she didn’t hear another word from authorities until a sexual assault survivor’s attorney called about the test result years later.

Waldron is one of thousands of women in Oregon whose sexual assault kits went untested until public pressure mounted and Oregon law was changed in 2015 to require uniform testing policies.

Although Waldron isn’t thrilled with Harrison’s plea deal, she noted that Assistant District Attorney Tara Gardner kept her informed during negotiations.

“The justice system failed in the first place,” Waldron said. “I had to learn to live all these years to come to the conclusion that this would never be resolved.”

Harrison, now 41, is already serving a 9-year-and-four-month prison sentence after being convicted of vehicle homicide and reckless driving by King County Superior Court in 2019. His shorter sentence in Multnomah County will run concurrently.

Harrison was driving on Interstate 5 through downtown Seattle at 90 mph early on May 19, 2018, when he lost control and hit a barrier, slamming the passenger side of his sedan against the concrete wall of the freeway, according to court records. His passenger, Amanda M. Hume, 34, died as a result of the crash.

Harrison told authorities he had been drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana hours earlier, and Washington state troopers found hypodermic needles on the floor of his car, according to court documents.

He is currently being held at Inverness Multnomah County Jail.