Police are eyeing a Kentucky man set to be sentenced this week on charges related to a decades-old rape as a suspect in several open criminal cases after he allegedly told detectives that he is responsible for sexual assaults across multiple states.
Michael Dean Tate, 78, was arrested at his home in Union County, Georgia, in November 2019. He was slapped with charges of rape, sodomy and kidnapping relating to the 1978 attack on a Park Hills woman, according to WCPO-TV.
"This case is surreal,” Kenton County Commonwealth’s Attorney Rob Sanders said in a statement on Tuesday. “It's like a real-life version of 'Law & Order' or 'CSI.'”
A fingerprint recovered from the victim’s vehicle door more than four decades ago ultimately led to Tate’s arrest.
"Fingerprinting was relatively new back in those days," Sanders said. "And the database of prints law enforcement had available for comparison was limited, so it's no surprise there wasn't a match at the time."
The Kentucky prosecutor noted he was grateful Tate had pleaded guilty, essentially saving the victim from experiencing the potential trauma of having to testify at his trial.
"We consulted the victim every step of the way,” Sanders said. “She was very relieved to learn she would not have to return to Kentucky and relive this nightmare she has spent over 40 years trying to forget. Most of all she was very appreciative of the detectives who took up the investigation and continued to fight for her even though four decades had passed.”
While questioned, Tate also told police he had committed sexual assaults in other states. Detectives also believe he may have been involved in cold murder cases.
“During the confession, Tate not only confessed to this rape but mentioned that he had committed a number of other rapes in at least two other states other than Kentucky, so we believe that he was a serial rapist,” Sanders also told WXIX-TV.
Renewed interest was sparked in the case in 2017 after Boone County cold case investigators noticed similarities to an open murder case. Kentucky prosecutors described Tate as a “very dangerous individual” who has “managed to skirt law enforcement for a long time.”
“His name came about in the first place in connection to a homicide investigation,” Sanders also told WXIX-TV. “There’s still a number of open investigations into Mr. Tate.”
Detective Coy Cox told the Law&Crime Network that Tate's body language under questioning was an indicator that they would have to question him more thoroughly. He said that he believes the confessed rapist committed "a lot more serious crimes."
“He pours his coffee and he sits it on the counter, and he kind of paused and looked down," Cox told the network. "He started looking at his feet…he said, ‘I hurt a lot of women. I raped a lot of women and I just want to tell them I’m sorry.’"
No charges have yet been filed against Tate, who was scheduled to be sentenced in circuit court on Jan. 12, according to WKYT-TV. Prosecutors have recommended a 12-year sentence. If that is applied, he’d be nearly 90 by the time he’s released.
Crime Time is your destination for true crime stories from around the world, breaking crime news, and information about Oxygen's original true crime shows and documentaries. Sign up for our Crime Time Newsletter and subscribe to our true crime podcast Martinis & Murder for all the best true crime content.