Man convicted in 'cold' rape case

Friday, May 4, 2007

NEW MADRID, Mo. -- A New Madrid County jury convicted a former Malden, Mo., man Thursday of raping and sodomizing a woman in her Cape Girardeau apartment nearly six years ago in a "cold case" that was solved with DNA evidence.

The jury of six men and six women deliberated in the New Madrid County Courthouse for only 26 minutes before returning guilty verdicts against Ontario Reed, 24, on felony charges of forcible rape and forcible sodomy.

Reed could be sentenced to life in prison, prosecutors said. Sentencing has been set for June 12.

This is the first cold case in Cape Girardeau County solved by DNA evidence and our first conviction in a cold case solved by DNA evidence, prosecutor Morley Swingle said.

The case was heard in New Madrid County on a change of venue.

A state law that took effect Jan. 1, 2005, required all felons incarcerated in Missouri to submit a DNA sample to the Missouri Highway Patrol. The samples are cross-checked against DNA evidence left at the scene of unsolved crimes.

Last summer, the highway patrol crime lab matched a DNA sample taken from the rape evidence with Reed's DNA. Reed has felony convictions for attempted robbery and second-degree robbery in Dunklin County. He is currently serving a 10-year sentence in the Algoa Correctional Center in Jefferson City for a robbery conviction.

"In basketball language, the case today is a slam dunk," Swingle told the jury in closing arguments in the daylong trial. The defendant didn't testify, and his lawyers didn't call any witnesses.

Swingle and assistant prosecutor Jack Koester said the woman, now 27 years old and living in Illinois, was brutally raped and sodomized by a stranger.

But public defender Leah Garabedian contended in her closing arguments that the victim knew Reed.

The victim was wearing only a shirt and panties when by her own admission she opened the door of her second-floor apartment in the 600 block of Sycamore Circle to a man she described as a "stranger" at 4:15 a.m. Aug. 6, 2001.

The woman testified that it would have been rude not to open the door.

"What woman opens a door to a stranger at 4:15 in the morning?" Garabedian asked. "This case would be different if she put a robe on."

Said Garabedian, "Reason tells you she opened the door to someone she knew."

The public defender told the jury, "This is not a forcible rape. This is sex. This is not forcible sodomy. This is sex." Garabedian was one of two public defenders who represented Reed.

Swingle, in his final remarks, discounted the defense argument. "That is absurd," he said. "This wasn't consensual sex where she was mad at her boyfriend."

Swingle said Reed forced his way into the apartment and raped and sodomized the woman on her bed.

The victim told the jury that her assailant then dragged her outside to the parking lot. She said she managed to escape briefly before the man grabbed her and twice banged her head against a brick wall of the apartment building. The assailant then fled.

DNA found in seminal fluid stains on a bedsheet matched Reed's DNA, testified Brian Hoey, a DNA supervisor with the state highway patrol crime lab in Jefferson City.

Dave Warren, a fingerprint expert with the Cape Girardeau crime lab, testified that a fingerprint found on a water bottle in the victim's apartment matched Reed's.

Hoey and Warren were among 11 witnesses called by the prosecution.

Swingle said he will seek to have Reed sentenced to two consecutive life sentences. "This is a predator, and we want him off the streets forever," the prosecutor said.

Since Reed is a prior offender, the trial judge -- Circuit Judge Fred Copeland -- will decide the punishment, Swingle said.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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