Cuyahoga County Prosecutors find a way to keep hope alive for sexual assault victims in cases where suspects are still unidentified decades later

Updated: Oct. 22, 2020 at 8:45 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - The Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office says it’s armed with new resources they say will help them track down violent rapists, who have yet to face punishment.

Richard Bell is over the new GOLD task force working in the cold case unit.

“This research is going to allow us to identify who they are and get some resolution for the victims of these serious rapes,” he said. “Thirty or forty years ago, we never realized that DNA was going to help solve so many cases.”

He said that started to become apparent though in the late 90′s when a national database was created to hold the DNA profiles of convicted criminals.

“Well, now we are going to be able to do ancestry searches and go beyond that. So, if you haven’t been arrested, if you’ve gotten away with your crimes, now we are going to be able to detect who you are,” Bell said.

Remember the map 19 Investigates made a few weeks ago to show you the status of damaged buildings downtown?

The prosecutor’s office made one just like it to show where some of the most serious unsolved crimes happened.

“These are our 20 most wanted rapists. These are serial rapists. These are terrible terrible people who have attacked people,” Bell said.

You can navigate the map to see their crimes, by clicking on the pins.

For example, in the Flats in 1998, two suspects struck a 26-year-old in the head with a pipe and then sexually assaulted the victim.

Over on Clark avenue, a suspect went into a home when the resident left on a walk.

When the person returned, the rapist attacked.

Wednesday, we told you about the Ohio law some victims are advocating to change.

It currently restricts the ability to prosecute a rape case after 20 years.

So how will Cuyahoga County prosecutors bring charges against these crimes that are clearly older than that?

“We know who they are, but only by their DNA, not by their names,” Bell said.

Prosecutors say they’ve indicted all of these perpetrators as “john doe” cases.

That essentially stops the clock, getting around the statute of limitations law, they said.

Once officials are able to find the person who matches the DNA profile, their name simply replaces “John Doe” in the indictment.

“We are hopefully going to be able to identify these people one by one,” Bell said.

If you have any information after looking through the crimes posted on the map, prosecutors ask that you call them.

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