Construction worker charged with cold rape after DNA link found
A married construction worker in Washington state has been arrested for raping two women nearly two decades ago, police said.
Kenneth David Downing, 47, was taken into custody Thursday at a construction site in Spokane after investigators linked him to two home invasions and sexual assaults in Pullman in November 2003 and March 2004.
“This cold case arrest was made possible through DNA matches, using evidence collected at the time the crimes occurred,” Pullman said. police said in a statement.
Downing, of Elk, was linked to attacks by investigators using forensic genetic genealogy. His bail was set at $5 million after prosecutors argued he was still a threat to the public, KREM reported.
Downing, who appeared in court on Friday, faces four counts of rape, three counts of assault and other charges for allegedly attacking the two victims months apart.
Prosecutors said a woman told investigators the suspect sexually assaulted her three times during the attack and even made small talk at one point, asking her about her pets, reported the KREM.
The woman still lives in fear some 18 years later, prosecutors said.
Months after the initial attack, authorities say, Downing broke into another woman’s apartment and raped her at knifepoint after tying up and assaulting her roommate.
Cops collected evidence from both crime scenes and then entered the DNA into a genealogy database, eventually leading them to Downing after a relative sent in a sample to inquire about their lineage, KREM reported.
Downing, who faces life in prison if convicted, told a judge on Friday that he was a married man with several children who had lived in the area for a decade.
Pullman police declined to identify the site where Downing was arrested, as well as the company he worked for at the time, spokesperson-Review reported.
“I think it’s important that after 18 years our victims here in Pullman can now have some closure and not have to worry about this guy still running around there,” said Staff Sgt. Pullman font. Aaron Breshears told the newspaper.
Pullman police partnered with a private firm in 2020 to look into the cold case, later identifying a “family tree” that narrowed the search significantly, Breshears said.
“Rather than a needle in the haystack, we now had a family to look into, in regards to suspects based on this forensic genetic genealogy,” Breshears told the newspaper.
Downing, who pleaded not guilty, was assigned a court-appointed attorney and is due back in court on March 25. KHQ-TV reported.