CLEVELAND (AP) — Rape cases reopened in Cleveland by checking previously untested DNA samples include instances where the attackers have since died over the years.
According to The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer (bit.ly/1dRl6FN), the pool of rape survivors whose cases were reopened and found that the suspected attacker is dead amounts to less than 10 percent at this point.
Finding out that her suspected rapist has died made it more difficult for Allyssa Allison, who was raped in 1993 and always suspected her landlord. She was right.
"It made it so much harder," she told the paper. "I'll never get my day in court. I'll never be able to tell him off."
Still, she said, "It feels so good not be afraid anymore, you have no idea what it's like to be afraid every day for 20 years."
Attorney General Mike DeWine says Ohio's crime lab has received more than 5,000 previously untested rape kits as it searches for DNA matches that could help solve reported sexual assaults. Testing has been completed on more than 2,500 of those rape kits, leading to 837 DNA matches in a criminal database.
DeWine, a Republican, announced his testing initiative in December 2011. The attorney general has offered free DNA testing to any law enforcement agency with untested rape kits in which a crime was believed to have been committed. Many of the kits submitted for testing are between 10 and 20 years old.
DeWine says forensic scientists with the state lab had received 5,215 previously untested kits from 111 law enforcement agencies in Ohio as of the beginning of the new year.
With Cleveland cases revived, investigators gathered a DNA swab from a relative of Allison's former landlord. It was compared to the DNA profile found in her rape kit.
The attacker was also a likely match to at least three other rape cases reported after Allison's including one reported by a woman who later lived in the same apartment complex where Allison had lived.
Those cases, which varied widely in the way they were described, all happened between 1993 and 1995. Kits from after that time may not be fully tested yet, meaning more matches could be found.
Allison, a 49-year-old mother of three, is one of hundreds of Cleveland-area women who have been contacted about rapes they reported in the past 20 years.
The number of victims whose attackers have died over the years is likely to grow as thousands of old rape kits from Cuyahoga County are tested and results get sent back to investigators and police departments for follow up, the newspaper reported.
Assistant County Prosecutor Brian McDonough, who leads the DNA Cold Case project, said investigators try to notify every victim that their rapist has been identified even if prosecution is no longer possible.
"We believe we can give them as survivors some piece of mind and some comfort," McDonough said.
One victim, he said, recently told him for decades she had been looking over her shoulder. When told that her attacker was dead, "She was overjoyed."
Allison's former landlord died in 2005 at age 53. The paper said his criminal record showed no sex crimes convictions, but he was arrested in 1987 on rape and kidnapping charges that were later dismissed.