Shawn Lawson appears in Athens County Common Pleas Court on May 9. (Susan Tebben/WOUB News)

Special Task Force Investigating Tips on Alleged Athens Serial Rapist

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ATHENS — A special task force, including the FBI and Ohio Attorney General’s Office, has been formed to investigate several tips relating to an alleged serial rapist already charged in Athens County.

The task force is looking into “multiple tips” since the arrest of Shawn J. Lawson, Jr., who is currently being held for allegedly perpetrating multiple rapes and crimes within the county.

“In order to ensure that any and all information is received, a tip line has been established,” a press release on the formation of the task force stated. “Individuals that have made prior reports to law enforcement can utilize the tip line as well.”

Also included in the task force is the Athens County Sheriff’s Office, the Athens City Police Department and the Ohio University Police Department.

Lawson, 26, of Hawks Nest Road in Athens, is charged with three counts of kidnapping, three counts of felonious assault, one count of attempted rape, two counts of rape and two counts of aggravated burglary. He is currently being held on $3 million bond, $1 million for each of the victims named in the Athens County case.

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 Athens area early in the morning, according to previous WOUB reporting.

But Lawson may face more charges in a March 2017 Lancaster case, Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn said after Lawson appeared in court on the Athens County charges. He also said Lawson could have committed the crimes in areas outside of Athens and Fairfield counties.

“I think I would say it’s possible he was transient in his work, and so, there may be victims outside the state of Ohio and there may be rape kits that haven’t been tested elsewhere,” Blackburn said. “I think the AG’s office is going to help us with trying to ascertain that information.”

With the new task force in action, law enforcement is hoping to see more people come forward with information and “that people continue to come together to seek the truth.”

“The primary concern of Athens County Prosecuting Attorney Keller Blackburn and those assisting on the task force is to keep the people of Athens County safe and to ensure everyone can report information they feel is pertinent to Shawn Lawson Jr.’s case,” the task force release stated.

The tip line number is (740) 541-1510. According to the release, callers will be required to leave a message on the tip line, and will receive a return call from a victim advocate.