DNA led to arrest in 2022 attack on Wisconsin anti-abortion organization, authorities say
By Treasure Welle and Paradise Afshar, CNN
A Wisconsin man was arrested Tuesday in connection with a 2022 firebombing attack on an anti-abortion organization’s office in the state’s capital after DNA evidence linked him to the crime scene, prosecutors said.
Hridindu Sankar Roychowdhury, 29, of Madison, was arrested at Boston Logan International Airport on one count of attempting to cause damage by means of fire or an explosive, the US Attorney’s Office in the Western District of Wisconsin said in a news release. Roychowdhury had purchased a one-way ticket for a flight that was set to depart Boston for Guatemala City on Tuesday morning, according to the news release.
Roychowdhury’s arrest relates to a May 2022 incident in which a Madison office of Wisconsin Family Action, a political organization that lobbies against abortion rights, was vandalized and damaged by fire, authorities said.
After investigators identified Roychowdhury as a possible suspect earlier this month, police recovered leftover food and related items in a public trash can, the US attorney’s office said. Law enforcement then collected DNA from that food, and a forensic biologist matched it to DNA evidence from the scene of the attack, according to the release.
Roychowdhury was scheduled to appear in US District Court in Boston on Tuesday, and a date for his appearance in federal court in Madison has not been set. It is unclear if he has obtained an attorney.
Madison firefighters were called to the building after a passerby saw fire there on May 8, 2022, and the firefighters quickly put out the blaze, officials said. No injuries were reported.
Two Molotov cocktails that did not ignite were found inside the building, and it appeared that a separate fire was started, police said at the time. Graffiti reading, “If abortions aren’t safe then you aren’t either” was found at the scene, the US attorney’s office said.
The organization appeared to have been targeted because of its beliefs, police said. The fire was being investigated as arson, the Madison Fire Department said at the time.
A few days before the fire, a draft of a US Supreme Court majority opinion that would strike down Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that the constitution protected a woman’s right to an abortion, was leaked.
The nation’s high court did rule in June 2022 that there is no federal constitutional right to an abortion, triggering weeks of protests nationwide.
Wisconsin was one of a number of states with an abortion restriction in place prior to the Roe ruling. Its 1849 ban on nearly all abortions is being challenged in court and likely to land before the state Supreme Court.
If convicted, Roychowdhury would face a sentence of five to 20 years in prison, the US attorney’s office said.
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