A defense attorney in a Lawrence rape case Friday morning asked for more information from police in ongoing investigations of a Lawrence and Manhattan serial rapist because she said it could help with her own client’s defense.
Defense attorney Jessica Travis asked District Judge Peggy Kittel to order police to allow her to view any composite sketches or any other potential images of the suspect related to the serial rapist investigation.
“To me, the fact that there is another individual that actually more so matches the description that she (a rape victim) gave than my client — the description she gave at the preliminary hearing — on some key points, I think that is relevant,” Travis said.
Travis represents a 36-year-old Lawrence man who was charged in 2007 with the rape and kidnapping of a female Kansas University student stemming from an incident in May 1997.
Law enforcement officials in northeastern Kansas have confirmed they are investigating a possible connection among five rapes in Lawrence and seven rapes and an attempted rape in Manhattan, all occurring between 2000 and 2008. They have warned KU and Kansas State University students to take precautions.
Travis said that descriptions police have released to the public of the suspected serial rapist match a similar description from the alleged victim who accuses her client in the 1997 case.
But Amy McGowan, a chief assistant Douglas County district attorney, opposed allowing the defense attorney to review information related to the ongoing serial rapist investigation. McGowan also said she was not aware of any composite sketches in that investigation, but she did say she would allow the judge only to review information related to the serial rapist investigation.
“No further information is available to the public about that for obvious reasons,” McGowan said. “This is a case that is being diligently — which is almost an understatement — worked by both police departments in Riley County and here in Lawrence.”
McGowan also said the descriptions of the alleged attackers in the 1997 case and the serial rapist investigations do differ.
The KU student in the 1997 case described a white man, who was 5 feet 7 inches to 5 feet 9 inches tall. He had dark brown hair, a slender build, a full beard and mustache, matted-down hair, dark pants, long sleeves and black gloves. She also said the man had a bad odor and smelled like dirt.
During preliminary hearing testimony last year, the victim said the suspect had a gun and kidnapped her from the parking lot at Naismith Hall, at 19th Street and Naismith Drive. She said he forced her to go to a secluded area by some shrubs and raped her.
McGowan said the main description in the serial rapist investigation is of a white man, 5 feet 9 inches to 6 feet tall, 25 to 40 years old with a slim build.
That suspect is also alleged to have been armed during the attacks, sometimes with a gun.
Kittel said she would make a ruling on the motion from Travis at 3:30 p.m. Thursday.
Trial in the 1997 case is scheduled to begin May 4. Prosecutors have said investigators arrested the 36-year-old suspect after a fingerprint match led police to obtain a warrant and collect a DNA sample from the suspect. Prosecutors have also said the DNA matched DNA collected as evidence from the rape case.
The Journal-World generally does not name sex crime suspects unless they have been convicted.