Tracking down a serial rapist: how prosecutors solved two cold-case rapes

Published: May. 27, 2021 at 7:00 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - It took more than a decade, but a serial rapist has been caught and will now spend years behind bars.

19 Investigates takes you inside the case where DNA evidence led to his conviction.

Basim Barnes, 35, is set to spend his next 35 years in prison.

He was just convicted of raping two women on Cleveland’s west side more than 10 years ago.

Cuyahoga County Assisting Prosecuting Attorney Oscar Albores worked the case for the past five years.

He noticed striking similarities in the cases.

“What he’s not going to realize at the time is that we’re going to collect his DNA, and we’re going to be able to prosecute him because of our cold case unit,” Albores said.

First, the two women were raped at gunpoint near similar spots off Lorain Avenue.

In October 2007, the suspect forced a 27-year-old woman into his car at a gas station.

Then he drove her to an abandoned house near W. 44th Street where he raped her.

February 2009, a 19-year-old homeless woman was walking to a shelter near W. 32nd Street when prosecutors said she came into contact with Barnes.

“She was asked if she needed a ride, at that point he brought out a gun, took her to an abandoned building and raped her,” Albores said.

He uncovered a pattern that may have been difficult for police to see at the time.

“So investigators at that time aren’t going to be able to see what I’m able to see, when I see two rape kits, I see two police reports out there, two medical reports and how identical they are,” he said.

In both cases, the women reported the rapes to police.

Sex assault kits were collected but sat idle for years.

These were just two of thousands of unsubmitted rape kits that went untested from 1993 to 2011 statewide.

A few years later, Ohio BCI started testing the kits, and the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office created the Sexual Assault Kit Task Force (SAKTF) to solve cases in northeast Ohio.

Prosecutors sent these two rape kits to CODIS, the FBI’s national DNA database, and got hits on both, matching Basim Barnes.

“At that point when it came back to the same person, you worried you might have a serial rapist on hand,” Albores said.

He has this warning for other criminals out there.

“I would hope serial rapists at the very least are aware, it can be years later but we can still find you and try to get justice for these two women,” he said.

Prosecutors said these women were traumatized again when Barnes represented himself during his trial.

The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office has now indicted 830 people after processing untested rape kits going back years.

Overall, the sexual assault kit task force has completed 7,026 investigations.

They said several suspects are serial offenders.

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office previously reported all rape kits in the SAK initiative were completed in January of 2018.

They recently started an online system to track the status of sexual assault evidence kits. You can read more about it here.

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