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Convicted Child Rapist Charged In 'Vicious' 1989 Murder Of Biologist On Super Bowl Sunday

Biologist Cynthia Rodgers was found beaten, raped and strangled five days after she disappeared from Prince George County, Maryland.

By Jax Miller
Cynthia Rodgers Pd

Police say they have filed charges against a man accused of raping and murdering a Maryland woman over 33 years ago.

Cynthia Rodgers, 27, disappeared from Prince George’s County on Super Bowl Sunday of 1989, according to NBC Washington. Her body was discovered in a wooded area five days later; police said that someone had beaten and raped her before strangling her to death.

Police said this week that the man responsible for the young biologist’s murder is James Clinton Cole, now 64. (He would have been 32 at the time of Rodgers' disappearance.)

“This makes us feel better,” Rodgers’ mother, Rosia Rodgers, told NBC Washington. “My heart is feeling lighter.”

Family members believe Rodgers was on her way to the market to purchase items for a soup when she disappeared. According to Washington DC’s Fox 5 News, her body was found on a dirt path littered with trash in the Forestville area. Authorities said that locals frequently used the path as a shortcut to the store.

“It was a very brutal attack,” said cold case detective Bernie Nelson in 2018. “She had multiple blunt force injuries about her upper body and head. She was strangled to death, and there were indications she was sexually assaulted as well, so it was a very vicious attack, extremely vicious.”

In 2018, Nelson told reporters they had used DNA collected from the 1989 crime scene to rule out several suspects. At the time, however, it wasn’t enough a strong enough sample to run through a federal database.

“The profile that the FBI was able to develop from the sample wasn’t strong enough to meet the standards to enter into the database,” said Nelson. “But it is something we can work with if given the name of someone who we can approach and obtain their DNA and compare it directly to the sample.”

It wasn’t immediately clear what prompted a more recent examination of the DNA, but according to NBC Washington, a sample gathered from re-examined evidence was more recently entered in the FBI database and matched to James Clinton Cole.

Court records viewed by Oxygen.com show Cole had several criminal charges filed against him in the past, including a misdemeanor assault in 1984, a charge for the destruction of property just days before Rodgers’ disappearance, and a charge of child abuse in 1995.

He is currently in prison for the 1996 rape of a child that also went unsolved for more than a decade.

In that case, a man forced a 12-year-old at knifepoint into the woods behind Benjamin Stoddert Middle School on Aug. 20, 1996, according to the Charles County Sheriff’s Office. After raping her, he tied the victim’s hands and feet, but she was able to escape.

The department’s Forensic Science Unit reexamined the DNA from the child’s crime scene in 2009, matching it to James Clinton Cole. Cole was charged and sentenced to two life sentences for that crime.

According to NBC Washington, Cole has denied ever knowing or meeting Cynthia Rodgers 33 years ago.

“The burden has been lifted to a certain point,” Rodgers’ brother, Philip Rodgers’ told NBC Washington. “There will never be total healing because of the incident altogether, but we have some relief.”

Cynthia Rodgers was a biologist working on research on Parkinson’s disease at the National Institutes of Health when she was killed.

Court records do not indicate when Cole is scheduled to appear before a judge in the case. Prison records show he is currently incarcerated at the Western Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Maryland.

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