Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters announces charges in serial rape cold cases. Cincinnati Enquirer
An accused serial rapist whose charges date back more than 20 years was indicted Tuesday on rape after investigators used a genealogy website to identify him.
William Brian Blankenship, 55, of Southgate, Kentucky, was arrested Jan. 23 on a warrant out of Hamilton County, according to court records. He is currently being held in the Campbell County Jail facing multiple counts of rape, burglary, kidnapping and gross sexual imposition.
“He’s a pig, OK?” Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph Deters said at a news conference Tuesday. “He needs to go to jail for the rest of his life. He’s raping little girls, two of (whom were) 10 and 14. And the trauma that they’ve had to endure in their lives is beyond imagination.”
The 1999 and 2001 cases
Blankenship is accused of assaulting two girls and a woman in the Mount Washington and Anderson Township areas between 1999 and 2001, Deters said.
The first incident occurred on July 25, 1999 when court documents say Blankenship attacked a woman in her apartment and raped her.
On Aug. 14, 2001, Blankenship took a 10-year-old girl out of the pop-up trailer in her driveway where she was sleeping with friends. He then carried her into an open field and raped her, documents state.
Blankenship also is accused of raping a 14-year-old girl in her bedroom on Oct. 10, 2001, according to court documents.
‘I don’t believe he just stopped doing it.’
Blankenship’s most recent address is on North Street in Southgate, Kentucky, according to court records.
Deters said investigators believe he has been living in the Greater Cincinnati area ever since the incidents in Mount Washington and Anderson Township, although no other rape cases in those neighborhoods have been connected to Blankenship.
“I just can’t believe he stopped,” Deters said.
In 2018, Blankenship was charged with domestic violence in an incident involving a woman he lived with. Court documents describe him as “very intoxicated” the evening of April 15, 2018. Officers had earlier gone to the home for an alleged incident but didn’t find anything.
Later, when the woman got out of the shower, he tried to grab her “and hold her there,” but she pulled away from him. Wearing a robe, she ran out of the house, hid in the back yard and called police, the documents say.
Prosecutors ultimately dismissed the charge.
In 2015, Blankenship was convicted of a prostitution charge after a Covington police officer saw him “receiving sexual acts from a known prostitute.” The woman told police that Blankenship kept trying to pick up her and her friend, offering them $50 for sex. He received a 90-day suspended jail sentence, according to court records.
Deters has reached out to Northern Kentucky prosecutors regarding Blankenship’s cases, encouraging them to examine cold case rape kits in other counties in the area.
Genealogy and the power of 23andMe
To identify Blankenship, investigators started with DNA contained in the 20-year-old rape kits.
Using the Y chromosome found in that DNA – which is the gene that passes down paternally through genetics – detectives reached out to a genealogy company to trace the DNA to Blankenship’s family. Examples of such companies are 23andMe and Ancestry.com.
By tracking the DNA to that family, investigators were able to get a search warrant and test Blankenship directly.
Hamilton County Coroner Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco said tracking criminals’ DNA through the Y chromosome is a new tactic in the forensics world.
The odds of the suspect not being Blankenship, according to this match, is 1 in 3 octillion.
Sammarco said the county is now backtracking with this technology and looking at other open cases.
Deters said he has been talking to Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost about making this kind of technology more mainstream in Ohio cases. The only state that currently uses genealogy databases in criminal investigations is Florida, he said.
He wants Ohio to be next in this trend, but it might not be so easy.
“There are groups that are fighting the release of this information nationwide which I just don’t understand,” Deters said. “I mean I’m sorry, you know, you got– I don’t care, they’re always your kid, but if he’s a killer or a rapist, for God’s sakes, what are you protecting here? What’s the purpose of it?”
If convicted of all charges, Deters said Blankenship will spend the rest of his life in prison.
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