AKRON, Ohio — A former bartender, accused of raping four women in the early 2000s, is scheduled to stand trial in September in Summit County Common Pleas Court.
An indictment charges Kevin Suhoza, 47, of Akron, with eight counts of rape and four counts of sexual battery.
According to prosecutors, two of the victims were sexually assaulted in January of 2000, one victim in October of 2000 and another victim in March of 2002.
Documents filed in connection with the case claim Suhoza is identified as the assailant in two of the three incidents by DNA evidence.
"In all three incidents, the defendant was working as a bartender at the time of the assaults, and all four victims were customers of his, consuming drinks personally prepared and served by the defendant," Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Brian Stano wrote.
Stano also wrote that none of the victims knew the defendant and after consuming alcoholic beverages prepared by Suhoza, all four victims "suffered from symptoms of unusually severe intoxication, and also suffered partial temporary memory loss after their assaults, two of which occurred in the restroom of the bar."
In the court paperwork, Stano refers to Suhoza as a "serial sexual offender who used his employment as a bartender to commit drug and/or alcohol-facilitated sexual assaults."
In an interview via Zoom, one of the survivors said it has been hard reliving the incident more than 20 years later. News 5 is not showing the woman's face or naming her for her safety.
"The anxiety that has come along with this has been one of the hardest things I've ever had to deal with," she said.
The woman, who was 22 at the time, said she and a friend were served drinks at the Applebee's in Fairlawn in January of 2000.
Prosecutors said both women were later sexually assaulted at an Akron Area apartment and that they suffered partial temporary memory loss after their assaults.
"Obviously, something had taken place," the survivor said. "What happened for the rest of that evening was out of our character."
Akron police and prosecutors confirmed the victim in the October 2000 case was a University of Connecticut cheerleader.
In that incident, the 22-year-old woman — in town for a football game at the University of Akron — was allegedly raped in a bathroom at the former Banana Joe's in Akron.
At that time, detectives told News 5 they were investigating the case as a possible "date rape drug case."
Police said rape kit examinations were done in all of the incidents, but years past and no one was charged.
"It just felt like they didn't believe us. Our voices were just not heard at all," said one of the survivors from the January 2000 incident. "Nothing came of it. Absolutely nothing."
But in 2019, a new Akron police unit called the Akron Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (ASAKI) began reopening cold case sexual assaults, and the unit worked together to investigate the bar incidents from 2000 and 2002.
Through that investigation, DNA evidence connected Suhoza to three of the rapes, according to Stano and Jennie Shuki, another assistant prosecutor on the case.
"Ultimately, you can't out talk DNA and the DNA is there," Shuki said.
Stano described the crimes as "predatory behavior."
"Sometimes it can become an instance of predator and prey and that's what we find disturbing and that's why we prosecute these cases," Stano said.
Suhoza has pleaded not guilty to the charges. Through his attorneys, Suhoza declined a request for an interview.
His attorneys released the following statement:
"Kevin Suhoza states that the charges filed against him in the indictment in the Summit County Court of Common Pleas are false. He strongly maintains his innocence, and will continue to participate in the legal process to eventually clear his name. These incidents must be viewed separately and distinctly. In one set of charges, DNA evidence clears Mr. Suhoza of any wrongdoing. With respect to the other two incidents listed in the indictment, the charges pertain to consensual encounters that occurred almost 20 years ago. It is troubling that the DNA evidence being used to link him to alleged crimes is simultaneously being ignored in a situation where it exonerates him. Kevin cooperated in the investigation 20 years ago, was not charged at that time. 20 years later, a man is facing the impossible task of trying to recount specific incidences of his youth.
"As his lawyers, it can be quite difficult to disprove a negative, and the passage of so much time directly impacts our ability to contest these types of charges. As you can imagine, witnesses move away, memories fade, and people are unavailable to recall specifics of any particular day or night."
Detective Patrick Armstead, who is part of the ASAKI unit, said the possibility of getting justice for survivors about two decades later is gratifying.
"It's about the survivors to finally give these ladies closure, so to speak, to reaffirm their feelings they've had for 20 years and no one did that for them," Armstead said.
Suhoza was indicted in April of 2020. He was booked into the Summit County Jail and posted bond. Prosecutors said the suspect is being monitored through GPS and was ordered to have no contact with the victims.
The case has been delayed multiple times due to trial restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"These survivors had to live with their trauma, their fear. Many of them have PTSD," Shuki said, "We keep having to tell these victims over and over again, 'Your case has been continued. Your trial has been continued.'"
The survivor who spoke with News 5 said the delays make it more difficult to cope, but she stands ready to testify.
"To be able to tell our story, we're beyond thankful," she said. "I'm ready for this to be over, beyond over."
A pretrial is hearing is slated for August 9 and the trial date is scheduled for September 20.