Saturday, January 18, 2003

Police: Man suspect in OSU serial rapes

Victims reinterviewed after arrest

The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - A man charged in one attack is a "strong suspect" in a series of rapes near Ohio State University and on the city's north side, police said.

Kennedy Wheeler, 41, of Columbus, was charged Thursday with raping a woman at gunpoint on Jan. 6 on the city's north side.

Mr. Wheeler was arrested Monday on charges of receiving stolen property and felony drug abuse after he tried to use credit cards stolen from rape and robbery victims, police said.

Detectives have since reinterviewed victims of other attacks in the city and showed the women new photo lineups, police Cmdr. Paul Denton said Friday.

Six women were raped in the Ohio State University area in spring and summer and seven since December on the city's north side, including the woman Jan. 6.

"In the one case we do have him charged, there were enough similarities between what he did there and the ones we're looking at to consider him a strong suspect," Cmdr. Denton said.

"We're also looking at other crimes besides sex offenses, such as burglaries and robberies."

In a hearing Wednesday in Franklin County Municipal Court, Assistant County Prosecutor Laurie Arsenault told a judge that Mr. Wheeler was a risk to flee because of the rape investigations.

"There is some DNA evidence pending," Ms. Arsenault said. Bond was set at $500,000.

On Jan. 3, a security camera at a Fifth Third Bank recorded Mr. Wheeler trying to use a credit card that had been taken during a burglary and rape earlier that day, a police officer said in court.

An undercover officer said in court that on Jan. 13 he saw Mr. Wheeler trying to use a credit card at a Fifth Third Bank. The card had been stolen two days earlier by a masked gunman who entered a woman's north side home. She was not sexually assaulted.

Mr. Wheeler has a record in Cleveland that includes grand theft and trespassing, aggravated burglary and attempted rape in the 1980s. He served more than seven years in prison and was paroled in 1993, prison records show.

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