A Logan County Common Pleas Court judge has ruled this week the statute of limitations does not apply to an attempted aggravated murder filed more than 26 years.
Presiding Judge David C. Faulkner agreed with Logan County Prosecutor Eric Stewart that Ralph Bortree, 55, should face trial for attempting to kill a rape victim on July 31, 1993.
Bortree’s lawyers filed a motion to dismiss Sept. 6 because the charge came more than six years after the offense.
However, Stewart argued Ohio lawmakers in 1999 specifically amended state laws to clarify that there was no limitation on prosecuting murder and aggravated murder.
“The question then becomes whether an attempt to commit an offense, under either of those sections,” Faulkner wrote, “is an offense as to which there is no period of limitations.
“As pointed out by the (prosecutor), attempts to commit other crimes have been specifically addressed as to periods of limitations. It would be illogical to consider that the legislature neglected to consider these very serious crimes in its amendment.
“The Court therefore finds that the prosecution of this action is not time barred and may proceed and has prepared an entry consistent with that finding.”
Bortree was arrested in August after a special grand jury handed up an indictment.
The indictment came after investigators were able to use genealogical DNA information to link Bortree to the 1993 cold case involving a then 19-year-old Logan County woman.
The DNA evidence also implicated Bortree in three other cases in Shelby County stretching from May 23, 1992 to May 24, 1995. However, charges will not filed for those crimes as both Stewart and the Shelby County Prosecutor’s Office determined the statute of limitations has runout.
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.
This year 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 a 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 to Sidney police investigators she was walking home from work when she was abducted at gun, 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.
On 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 and
ordered 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.
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.
Investigation into other possible crimes continues. Anyone with information may contact the Logan County Sheriff's Office at (937) 592-5731.