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Akron cold case rape unit that has indicted 15 suspects in 3 years receives $2 million grant renewal

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Posted at 3:41 PM, Jan 26, 2022

AKRON, Ohio — An Akron police unit that investigates and solves cold case rapes received a renewal grant for more than $2 million allowing investigators to continue a targeted approach to identify unknown sexual assault offenders.

The federal grant, through The Bureau of Justice Assistance, funds the Akron Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (ASAKI).

The unit launched as a way to re-examine up to 1,500 unsolved raped in Akron. ASAKI is a collaboration between APD, the Summit County Prosecutor's Office, Ohio BCI, Victim Assistance Program and the Rape Crisis Center.

Some of the crimes date back to 1999, but many rape kits were not submitted for DNA testing until 2012.

In February of 2019, the unit began investigating and prosecuting offenders of cold case sexual assaults.

In 2020, ASAKI was awarded $150,000 to continue advanced DNA testing and to research to identify suspects.

Over the last three years, the ASAKI team has indicted 15 suspects on a total of 55 charges. Nine of the suspects are considered serial offenders, police said.

DNA evidence was used to crack many of the cases, according to Detective Patrick Armstead.

"For some people, it was 20 years where they didn't hear anything, didn't know anything, didn't know what happened to their kit, didn't know what happened to their case," Armstead said.

Detective Crystal Bowen-Carter believes the work done by the unit sends a message to rapists that they are not in the clear even if years or decades have passed.

"We're looking for you. We're out right now. We've got cases where we're looking at making indictments. We're coming for you," Bowen-Carter said.

Detective Sandra Ridgeway-Williams said the grant renewal is a big deal in the ongoing effort to help survivors get justice.

"For so many years, they weren't able to tell their story and for someone to listen to them and to actually believe them," Ridgeway-Williams said. "We're seeking them out, talking to them and now they get a chance to actually tell someone, hey, this is what happened to me."

Aurora Winters, a survivor of sexual assault and human trafficking, said she's grateful for the work ASAKI has done for other survivors.

"I know it can be difficult for some survivors who've probably done a lot of work and moved on, but I don't know many survivors who wouldn't be behind this," Winters said.

Survivors can contact ASAKI detectives at 330-375-2228. Survivors can also reach the Summit County Victim Assistance Program at 330-376-0040 or Rape Crisis Center of Medina and Summit Counties at 330-434-7273 for services and support.