New Image of Suspect In Serial Sex Offenses Released

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Police have released a new profile using DNA imaging for a suspect in serial sex offenses that happened within the city of Athens.

The Athens Police Department enlisted the help of Snapshot DNA Phenotyping to utilize DNA evidence collected during the investigation and create “a very accurate composite” of the suspect in three reported sexual assaults.

img20160406_15143546The images and profile for the suspect are “based entirely on a DNA profile of evidence DNA that we’ve obtained,” Police Chief Tom Pyle said, adding that they have shared the image with victims and added descriptions from those victims.

“The hairstyle, as described by at least one of the victims, the hat, as described by at least one of the victims,” Police Chief Tom Pyle said at a press conference on Wednesday.

The cases were reported to have occurred on June 11, 2006, June 20, 2015, and Dec. 12, 2015. Police say the assaults occurred under “similar circumstances,” with the female victims walking home alone from the uptown area early in the morning.

The suspect is described as a white male in his late-20s to early-30s, 5’8” to 5’9”, and he weighs approximately 160 lbs.

The new description gives a 97 percent likelihood that, based on DNA, the suspect is of Northern European ancestry, with fair skin, green or hazel eyes, reddish brown or blond hair and a 50 percent likelihood that the suspect has freckles.

Pyle said when the new image was shown to police officers, some said the man seemed familiar to them.

img20160406_15150622“Within the department, several suggestions were made as to the identity,” Pyle said.

The investigation, which was announced as a serial sex offender case in January, is still ongoing and the police department received more than 80 tips before information began to “taper off,” according to an update the department released in February.

Police hope this new influx of information will bring more tips and he expressed confidence that victims will see it as a positive sign.

“I think (victims) are hopeful that this will assist in bringing this case to a close,” said Lt. Jeff McCall, detective with the APD.

At the January press conference, Pyle asked that anyone that was in the uptown area during the late hours of Dec. 11 and early morning hours of Dec. 12 and took photos while uptown, to provide the photos to police.

But in early February, police released a statement discouraging the use of social media regarding “tips and potential perpetrator accusations.”

“Misinformation can be harmful to the investigation, slander innocent people and potentially harm the victims further,” according to the statement. “We ask that you check the official information at the City of Athens website or the City of Athens Police Department Facebook page.”

The phenotyping method is a first for Athens, but the cost of the investigative tool is being shared with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation. The Athens City Council approved an appropriation of $8,500 for the police department as the investigation began, but Pyle said the cost for the DNA imagery was below that. He did not have an exact cost at a press conference Wednesday.

Mayor Steve Patterson said the city will continue to “pull out all the stops” when it comes to finding the suspect.

“When it comes to (investigation of a) sexual predator and sexual assault, you can’t put a price tag on that,” Patterson said.

Patrols have been increased during weekends and days with particular events, like fests, and police have increased their vigilance at all times, Pyle said.

Anyone with information is asked to call (740)566-4208 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. to provide information to a police officer or (740) 592-3313 to contact detectives. Information can also be submitted on the department’s crime tip page. Those who want to submit victim information in regards to the suspect can submit their information through the APD’s victim information form.

Crime tips can also be provided to Athens County Crime Solvers Anonymous by calling (740) 594-3331.