Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Firefighter investigated in area rapes


Madeira-Indian Hill captain jailed after alleged attack on woman in Columbus

By Sheila McLaughlin
The Cincinnati Enquirer

MASON - Police are investigating whether a local firefighter jailed in an attack on a woman in her Columbus apartment last week has any connection to a series of unsolved rapes in Hamilton and Warren counties since 1998.

Mason Detective Scott Doughman said he hopes to compare evidence from the Columbus crime with the DNA of a serial rapist, responsible for the attacks on a woman and four children in 1998 and 1999.

Michael Cornelius, a 33-year-old captain with the Madeira-Indian Hill Joint Fire District, was arrested May 8 and accused of breaking into the home of a 21-year-old woman near the Ohio State University campus.

A roommate's 911 call saved the woman, who told police that the intruder brandished a butcher knife and pushed her onto her bed. Cornelius, a married father of three who was in Columbus for a week-long fire seminar, was arrested at the scene.

He is jailed in Franklin County on charges of aggravated burglary and abduction, and is suspended from his job.

Doughman said it is unclear whether Columbus police will be able to extract DNA from their evidence to compare with that of the serial rapist. Comparison of the evidence could take anywhere from 10 days to eight weeks, Doughman said.

Cornelius' DNA would be among hundreds of samples already checked to identify the serial rapist who attacked a 27-year-old Mason woman; 12- and 14-year-old girls in Mason; a 6-year-old girl who lived in the same Montgomery neighborhood as Cornelius; and a 10-year-old Colerain Township girl.

Doughman cautioned that any investigation of Cornelius is routine because of the nature of the allegations against him.

"We want to make sure this is in perspective. He'll be one of approximately 300 samples that have been checked," Doughman said.

"He's not the first person who ever lived on the street of one of our victims. It's not the first time we looked at someone in the public service profession."

The victims of the local rapes described their attacker as about 5-feet-10 with an average build, blue eyes and a red mustache. Cornelius is 6-feet-3, a blue-eyed brunette, and clean-shaven. Doughman did not know whether Cornelius has ever had facial hair.

E-mail smclaughlin@enquirer.com




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