Construction worker charged in cold case rapes after DNA link found

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Construction worker charged in cold case rapes after DNA link found

A married construction worker in Washington state has been arrested for raping two women nearly two decades ago, police said.

Kenneth David Downing, 47, was taken into custody Thursday at a job site in Spokane after investigators linked him to two home invasions and sexual assaults in Pullman in November 2003 and March 2004.

“This cold case arrest was made possible through DNA matches, using evidence collected at the time that the crimes occurred,” Pullman police said in a statement.

Downing, of Elk, was tied to the attacks by investigators using forensic genetic genealogy. His bail was set at $5 million after prosecutors argued he’s still a threat to the public, KREM reported.

Downing, who appeared in court Friday, is facing four counts of rape, three counts of assault and other charges for allegedly attacking the two victims months apart.

Prosecutors said one woman told investigators the suspect sexually assaulted her three times during the attack and even made small talk at one point, asking her about her pets, KREM reported.

The woman still lives in fear some 18 years later, prosecutors said.

Kenneth Downing
Kenneth Downing faces bail of $5 million after prosecutors argued he was still a menace to society.
KREM 2 News on YouTube

Months after the initial attack, authorities said, Downing broke into another woman’s apartment and raped her at knifepoint after tying up and assaulting her roommate.

Cops took evidence from both crime scenes and later entered DNA into a genealogy database, ultimately leading them to Downing after one of his relatives sent in a sample to inquire about their lineage, KREM reported.

Downing, who faces up to life in prison if convicted, told a judge Friday he’s a married man with several children who has been living in the area for the last decade.

Kenneth Downs
Kenneth Downs was identified by investigators using forensic genetic genealogy. He faces life imprisonment if he is convicted of the crimes.
KREM 2 News on YouTube

Pullman police declined to identify the site where Downing was arrested, as well as which company he was working for at the time, the Spokesman-Review reported.

“I think that it’s important that after 18 years, our victims here in Pullman now can have some closure and don’t have to worry about this guy running around out there still,” Pullman police Sgt. Aaron Breshears told the newspaper.

Pullman police partnered with a private company in 2020 to take a look at the cold case, later identifying a “family tree” that narrowed down the search significantly, Breshears said.

“Rather than a needle in the haystack, we now had a family to look at, as far as suspects based upon this forensic genetic genealogy,” Breshears told the newspaper.

Downing, who has pleaded not guilty, was assigned a court-appointed attorney and is due back in court on March 25, KHQ-TV reported.

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