Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Serial Rapist in Custody, Police Say Man, 31, Charged in 3 Rapes in Wilmerding over 21-Month Span

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Serial Rapist in Custody, Police Say Man, 31, Charged in 3 Rapes in Wilmerding over 21-Month Span

Article excerpt

Allegheny County Police believe they have a violent serial rapist in custody, claiming Friday that evidence - including DNA - indicates he has raped three women at gunpoint in Wilmerding since 2014 and sexually assaulted another woman in Georgia more than a decade ago.

But questions linger about why it took nearly two years for a DNA match to be made between the Georgia rape and the earliest Wilmerding rape in February 2014; whether North Versailles police, who initially responded to the rapes, immediately contacted county police; and why authorities did not alert the public about the assaults.

Suspect Lawrence Jim Cook, 31, was already in the Allegheny County Jail on Friday since being held for trial in March in connection with a November rape in Wilmerding when detectives hauled him out of the lockup and brought him to police headquarters in Point Breeze. There they arrested him in two other rapes in Wilmerding in February 2014 and last July.

As he was led to a police car for the ride back to jail, Mr. Cook told reporters that he did not rape anyone.

"I'm innocent," Mr. Cook said, calling the case a "set-up." Asked his connection with the cases, he said "It was a drug transaction gone bad" - apparently referring to the November incident, in which the victim told police that Mr. Cook picked her up so she could buy marijuana before he allegedly raped her.

During a news conference to announce the additional charges, county police acting Superintendent James Morton and Medical Examiner Karl E. Williams detailed the investigation supervised by Sgt. Kenneth Ruckel that led detectives to Mr. Cook.

They said the DNA from an unknown suspect in the two earliest Wilmerding rape cases was put into a national DNA database overseen by the FBI. At that point, police said, it was not known that the cases were related, though the circumstances bore similarities. …

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