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New research from CWRU reveals information previously known about serial rapists to be wrong

Posted at 7:55 AM, Mar 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-20 18:54:09-04

New research from Case Western Reserve University says what we know about serial rapists is wrong.

The three-year-long study led by Dr. Rachel Lovell of the Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research analyzed more than 800 sexual assault kits from the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office, dating from 1993 to 2009.

Dr. Lovell found that serial rapists are more opportunistic than methodical, following less of a pattern than previously thought.

“It means they were varying by age, by race, by gender, and even in some cases. by how serious the offenses were. So some were extremely violent, and some, the offender would apologize the whole time,” Dr. Lovell said.

Lovell said the common belief by law enforcement and prosecutors was that serial rapists maintained a consistent modus operandi, or MO, or offending pattern.

The goal with the new research, she said, is to change policy and get investigators to take a deeper dive into an offender’s complete criminal background. She said the research points to, more often than not, more than one victim.

Through DNA testing from backlogged kits, Nathan Ford has been linked to 18 sexual assaults in Cleveland and in Akron — the most of any offender in our area.

RELATED: Ohio law requires officers to submit rape kits within 30 days, but no consequences if they don't

The former probation officer is currently sentenced to centuries in prison. He was sentenced to 113 years in 2006 for the rapes and kidnappings of nine women. He was sentenced to five consecutive life terms in April of 2017 for attacks on three additional women. And in September of 2017, Ford was sentenced to eight consecutive life terms for two more victims.

Data shows that even his many assaults did not follow a specific pattern.

“He was assaulting women of different ages, different races, and different parts of the community,” Lovell said.

Out of the nearly 7,000 sexual assault kit investigations, 796 have been linked to serial rapists.

Rick Bell is the chief of criminal investigations for the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office.

“What we know is that stranger rapists don’t always use the same M.O., or modus operandi. We know that they are opportunists, that they’ll commit rapes depending on whether or not they can get away with it,” Bell said.

Bell said most of the stranger rapes occurred outdoors, and in the dark. They also oftentimes occurred in vehicles.