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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Crime/Public Safety

DNA samples from three rapes match, sparking search for serial rapist

 (Molly Quinn / The Spokesman-Review)
(Molly Quinn / The Spokesman-Review)

In 2013, a woman said she’d been held hostage in a stranger’s Spokane home and raped repeatedly for three days before she escaped. Seven years later, through DNA sampling, Spokane police believe the same man is responsible for at least two other local rapes during the last decade.

The most recent DNA sample arrived last year. A homeless woman staying at a shelter told police she’d been raped Sept. 18, 2020 by a transient white man she did not know, according to court documents.

She’d left the shelter for a walk and met with some friends. They hung out in the rocky area near the intersection of Division and North River Drive with at least one person she did not know. After her friends left and she was alone with the stranger, he raped her, the court documents say.

She described him to police as white, about 5-foot-10 and a skinny to medium build with blondish hair and rotted teeth.

The Washington State Crime Lab discovered that a male DNA sample from her vaginal swab matched DNA collected in two other rape cases, one in 2010 and one in 2013, the documents say.

In 2013, a woman told police she was homeless and new to Spokane, according to court documents. On or around Aug. 8, 2013, she was hanging out with a group of people, including a “dope” dealer. One of the men was supposed to be setting up a deal to buy a car for $500 but it seemed “fishy,” the woman said, according to court documents.

She told police the group ended up at a six-plex, somewhere around the Fred Meyer at Third Avenue and Thor Street. Being unfamiliar with Spokane, she couldn’t place the house or direct police to it, according to court documents.

Then her new friends left and she was alone with a white-appearing Native American man named “Joe.” She realized she’d been traded for drugs, she told police.

Joe locked her in a bedroom and raped her for the next three days, before she escaped through a window and ran, the documents say.

She told police he seemed to be about 6-foot-3 and had “Native Pride” tattooed on his wrists. She said he had perfect teeth, according to the court documents.

DNA swabbed during her sexual assault exam did not turn up a suspect at the time, though it matched the newly collected sample seven years later.

Three years before that woman was locked in a room, another woman reported to police that she’d been shopping at a strip mall Dec. 13, 2010 and was walking home from the outing, the records say.

Near Lidgerwood Elementary School, she encountered a man who asked her for money. She kept walking and he walked with her, she told police. He tried to get her into conversation, saying he was Native American and 32 years old, though he looked white to her, the documents say.

He also had a tattoo on the back of his neck that said “Joseph,” but reversed, as if it had been applied while looking in the mirror, according to the documents.

The woman gave him a dollar and told police she’d been “somewhat cooperative” with him in hopes that he’d leave her alone. Instead, he led her into an alley and raped her. She underwent a sexual assault exam that captured his DNA, the court records say.

In the 2010 investigation, police identified a possible suspect. When the woman couldn’t identify him in a photo lineup, they dropped it, according to court documents.

This year, Spokane County Jail booking photos show the same suspect has a tattoo on his neck that looks “self-applied” and reads backward, according to court documents.

Judge Tony Hazel signed off on a warrant last Thursday allowing police to get a sample of that man’s DNA to compare to the samples. The man has not been charged.

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