DNA Cold Case Task Force
In May 2011, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine invited law enforcement agencies across the state to submit for DNA testing any sexual assault kits, regardless of age, which were collected in a case but never tested. Numerous law enforcement agencies across Ohio responded, with the Cleveland Police Department submitting the most kits. Cleveland has committed to testing rape kits dating back to the early 1990s which were preserved in storage. Cuyahoga County has thus far submitted almost 1,500 kits, with roughly 4,000 expected in total for submission.
Test results began to trickle in from the Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) lab, and in early 2013 the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office committed to investigate and, whenever possible, pursue criminal charges against newly identified perpetrators. To that end, Prosecutor McGinty formed a partnership with the Cleveland Police Department (CPD) and the Sheriff’s Office to create the DNA Cold Case Task Force.
The Task Force pairs CPD, Sheriff’s Department Officers, and BCI Agents with investigators from the Prosecutor’s Office to locate victims and witnesses as well as evidence in these old cases. These law enforcement and law enforcement partners then collaborate with a team of specially focused DNA Cold Case prosecutors to prepare cases for Grand Jury presentation and prosecution.
Prosecutor McGinty has also helped the Cleveland and East Cleveland police departments by securing funding for special employees to catalog and package sexual assault kits and other evidence for delivery to BCI for testing.
DNA from the kits stored in Cleveland, East Cleveland and other Cuyahoga County communities has yielded matches to both known and unknown offenders already in the Combined DNA Indexing System (CODIS) as well as DNA collected from other sexual assaults. We are able to track offenders terrorizing our communities by comparing these matches, and in some cases match unknown suspects to known persons. By tracking the serial offenders, we can discern patterns that will aid investigators, prosecutions – and efforts at deterrence.
Rapists are often repeat, violent offenders. With an estimated 1,600 investigations anticipated from the rape kit testing, we have an ambitious undertaking, but one that all parties are committed to seeing through to resolution for the victims. Taking these one-man crime waves off our streets will make our communities instantly safer, while prosecuting these offenders brings justice to victims who have waited years for someone to act on their behalf.
Elias Acevedo represents the most dramatic example of this. The testing of a rape kit from 1993 led to Acevedo’s arrest in the summer of 2013. Additional evidence gathered by task force investigators from the BCI piqued the interest of agents and officers on the FBI Violent Crimes Task Force who had begun to re-examine the 1995 disappearance of 18-year-old Christina Adkins of Cleveland.
They ultimately got Acevedo to confess to killing not only Adkins, but also Pamela Pemberton, who was murdered in 1994 not far from the site of his 1993 rape. Acevedo led investigators to a manhole where they found Adkins’ remains. In addition, he confessed to a series of violent rapes and now faces trial on more than 200 charges.