A man arrested last August in a 26-year-old rape and attempted murder case lost his first attempt to have the case thrown out after an assigned judge rejected nearly all the defendant’s arguments.
A trial can now be rescheduled for Ralph E. Bortree, 56, who has been charged with attempted aggravated murder for a July 31, 1993, cold case involving a then 19-year-old Logan County woman. He remains lodged in the Logan County Jail.
Assigned Logan County Common Pleas Judge David Faulkner rejected Bortree’s arguments in a June hearing that last year’s indictments came after too many years had passed and would adversely affect his side’s efforts to mount a defense.
His attorneys also argued that Logan County Sheriff’s deputies violated Bortree’s rights when they collected a discarded cigarette butt from outside the defendant’s workplace for genetic DNA testing. Faulkner found Bortree had abandoned the smoking materials in a common, easily accessible area and the deputies did not need a warrant to collect the cigarette butt.
Deputies used genealogical DNA information from a cousin of Bortree to narrow down suspects in the Logan County case and three rape and abduction cases in Shelby County, stretching from May 23, 1992, to May 24, 1995. However, charges will not be filed for those crimes, as both Logan County Prosecutor Eric Stewart and the Shelby County Prosecutor’s Office determined the statutes of limitations to file charges in those cases had run out.
Stewart is pursing the attempted murder charge, as the statute of limitations does not run out in such cases.
Prosecutors planned to use evidence from the Shelby County cases to establish a pattern of criminal conduct, but Bortree’s attorneys argued the prior acts evidence was not relevent; did not fit permissible reasons for inclusion at trial; and would be prejudicial to their case.
Faulkner ruled prosecutors can use evidence from the 1992 Shelby County case, as it meets Ohio Supreme Court’s qualification standards.
In the Logan County case, the victim was driving to work when she was forced off the road by another vehicle. The suspect allegedly exited his vehicle, brandished a gun and ordered the victim into his vehicle.
She was driven to a remote area and raped. The suspect cut her throat, kicked her repeatedly and left her for dead in a ditch. She survived by waiting until the suspect left and made her way to a neighboring home.
She was transported to Mary Rutan Hospital for treatment of her injuries.
Investigators were unable to develop information at the time on potential suspects and the case was shelved until 2015.
Logan County Sheriff Detective Phil Bailey, who is the sheriff’s chief evidence technician, submitted evidence from the 1993 case for DNA testing at the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation. A profile was developed of a potential suspect, but the perpetrator was not in any criminal databases.
In 2019, the DNA profile was submitted to AdvanceDNA, a private forensic genealogy company that utilizes DNA profiles from genealogy sites to further investigative leads in criminal investigations.
AdvanceDNA was able to provide an investigative lead to the Bortree family. Jeff Bortree, a convicted rapist and violent sexual predator currently serving a life sentence for a 2007 rape, was imprisoned at the time of the crimes and was not a direct match.
So, detectives turned their attention to his two brothers.
They obtained the discarded cigarette butt from Ralph Bortree, which provided DNA that matched the 1993 case.
BCI further matched the DNA to a May 23, 1992 rape in Sidney. The victim told Sidney police investigators she was walking home from work when she was abducted at gunpoint, driven to a remote area of Shelby County and raped.
Investigators then approached two victims of attempted abductions and they were able to identify Ralph Bortree as the perpetrator.
July 22, 1993, a 16-year-old girl was studying in her car at a park in Sidney. The suspect approached the car, brandished a gun andordered her to get into his vehicle. The girl made a daring escape and ran to help.
On May 24, 1995, a 20-year-old woman also was studying in her car at a park in Sidney. Again, the suspect approached her vehicle and ordered her at gunpoint to get into his car. The victim got into his car and he began to drive away. As he drove, he told her he was going to sexually assault her.
She fought with the suspect over the gun and was able to get free from the perpetrator.
The physical description of the suspect, clothing description and method of operation described by the victims are all consistent with Ralph Bortree, authorities say.
In addition, records from the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles show that the suspect owned or had access to vehicles that match descriptions given by the victims and witnesses.