Cleveland — An Ohio inmate serving an 11-year sentence for sexual assault has been charged with five cold case rapes between 1996 and 2010 and with killing one of those victims.
A Cuyahoga County grand jury indicted Larry McGowan, 38, on Friday on 23 charges after authorities say he DNA testing connected him to the string of crimes.
It’s unclear whether McGowan has an attorney.
"McGowan is a one-man crime wave, a cold-blooded killer and a psychopath who destroys lives," county Prosecutor Timothy McGinty said in a news release.
Among McGowan’s new charges include the rape and murder of 41-year-old Maxine Pratt in Cleveland in 1997. Her body was found bludgeoned and her head had been run over with a car.
The most recent of the rape charges stems from 2010, when an 18-year-old woman was raped at gunpoint after being attacked as she walked to a bus stop.
The other alleged victims include a 21-year-old woman who said she was raped at gunpoint, shot by her attacker and then tossed out of a moving car in 1996, and a 32-year-old mother who was home alone with her baby in 1998 when she said a man broke in, grabbed her by the throat and raped her while threatening to hurt the infant.
Prosecutors linked the crimes to McGowan as part of their DNA Cold Case Task Force, formed in March last year.
Although McGowan had been in and out of prison since 1993 for non sex-related offenses, authorities did not properly collect his DNA until he was arrested for raping an Akron woman in 2012.
McGowan’s indictment is the 100th brought through the task force, which has been working through a backlog of more than 4,000 rape kits that have never been submitted for DNA testing.
About a third of those indictments have involved serial rapists, prosecutors said.
"We now realize that the DNA in these old rape kits is a ticket to prison for a trainload of violent rapists," McGinty said. "We have an unprecedented opportunity to take a large percentage of this county’s most dangerous criminals off the street all at the same time. We have hit the mother lode and we intend to mine the hell out of it."
McGinty said the task force is re-examining unsolved cases in the neighborhoods where they say McGowan operated to see if he’s connected to any other crimes.
The task force is a joint effort between the prosecutor’s office, Cleveland police, the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department and the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation. Leads are generated by Attorney General Mike DeWine’s Sexual Assault Kit Initiative.
Sondra Miller, president and CEO of the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, said in a news release last month that the initiative sends a message to all rape victims, "that no matter how long ago you were hurt, there are people and agencies who believe you and will do everything in our power to help you find justice and healing."
"Dozens of survivors have finally found the justice that they have been seeking for almost 20 years," she said.