Cuyahoga County Prosecutors help New Orleans officials crack 45-year-old rape case; Victim now pushing to change Ohio’s ‘statute of limitations’ law

Updated: Oct. 21, 2020 at 10:48 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Prosecutors made a major break in a rape case that’s more than 45-years-old.

The victim lives right here in Northeast Ohio, but was attending college in Louisiana when she reported the assault in 1975.

19 News Investigators discovered a loophole in Ohio law while listening to her experience.

Had the crime happened here, the woman may not be able to get the justice she’s so thankful for tonight.

After wide-ranging success solving more than 800 rape cases in the last few years...

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Richard Bell said the woman came to him with her story.

“I started thinking, this case could be solved,” Bell said.

The victim was a student at Tulane University in New Orleans when she went to police in 1975.

She said she’d just moved into an apartment near campus when two masked men broke in and sexually assaulted her.

“We’ve looked at old cases, and maybe I could call somebody in New Orleans,” Bell said.

Bell says he thought to call a prosecutor down there that he’d met at a conference.

“I said could you please look for the evidence on the police shelves,” Bell said.

Police were able to find undergarments and a bedsheet from the night of the crime.

Modern DNA testing led to a match in a national database-- Richard Craig, a convicted felon with a long history of violent crimes and parole violations.

“I couldn’t believe that all these stars were aligning,” Bell said. “This was something that was so unusual.”

Craig now faces charges in the crime.

We’re protecting the victim’s identity, but she told me that because of her case... she’s advocating for changes in Ohio’s Statutes of Limitations laws.

19 Investigates discovered that right now, rape and sexual battery cases cannot be prosecuted in Ohio after 20 years, meaning other victims who’ve been waiting years, even decades, wouldn’t be able to get justice if the assault had happened here.

Bell says Louisiana’s state laws make it easier to bring legal action no matter how much time has passed.

“They have a number of exceptions that would allow someone to be prosecuted,” Bell said.

Bell said the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s office took the case to legislators in February as an example of why the state should consider changing its laws.

“The message is that some things are unresolved in your life for many years, and it’s ok,” Bell said. “It’s okay to think about them. It’s ok to be persistent and talk to police or call your prosecutors.”

Prosecutors in New Orleans say they are still looking for a second suspect in the case.

It’s unclear whether there is additional DNA evidence, or if Craig could lead investigators to the second suspect.

Craig faces life in prison if convicted.

The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s office just created a new task force to help find more of these remaining violent sexual offenders locally.

If you need to report sexual assault you can call your local police department, or you can call 800.656.HOPE (4673), you’ll be routed to a local RAINN affiliate organization based on the first six digits of your phone number.

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