Revived Ohio rape case came 1 day too late

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CLEVELAND (AP) -- Time ran out in the first indictment from an Ohio effort to examine decades worth of previously untested sexual assault evidence kits.

According to The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer (bit.ly/10VpGNj), the indictment returned by a grand jury came one day after the 20-year statute of limitations expired.

According to Cleveland Deputy Police Chief Ed Tomba, the state lab notified detectives in December that DNA in the rape kit from a 1993 case matched that of 60-year-old Charles Steele.

His DNA profile was included in a statewide database because he is serving time on another rape case out of Cincinnati.

Tomba says police delays and an elusive victim living in Florida meant the case didn't result in an indictment until March 6, 20 years and one day after the attack.

The effort to review untested rape kits was mounted by Attorney General Mike DeWine. Since he launched the initiative in December 2011, the state crime lab has received more than 2,300 previously untested rape kits, nearly half from Cleveland.

The Plain Dealer said its analysis in February showed roughly a third of the kits sent to the lab could match a profile in state and national DNA databases, if trends from early testing held up.

According to Tomba, detectives submitted the rape kit for the Steele case to the state's Bureau of Criminal Investigation on July 20, 2011, and waited 17 months for the results. He said detectives learned that the victim used several different last names and appeared to be living in Florida.

Letters sent to her addresses generated no response, Tomba said. On Dec. 31, they presented the case to an assistant city prosecutor, who declared that there was not enough evidence to seek charges.

Two days later, a woman who identified herself as the victim left the detectives a voicemail message. But when detectives tried to call her back, the number was not in service, Tomba said.

Tomba said that although the Police Department is grateful for DeWine's initiative, detectives are under great pressure as the clock ticks on each case.

Cleveland Police Chief Michael McGrath said in February that he plans to add up to two more detectives to the Sex Crimes & Child Abuse unit to help with cases.

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Information from: The Plain Dealer, http://www.cleveland.com