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Clayton County Police spent years searching for a serial rapist who was attacking unsuspecting women in their homes in Georgia, never realizing their suspect may have been a police recruit at their own department.
But it was Kenneth Thomas Bowen III’s brief employment with the police station in 2018—along with small details remembered by the rape victims—that would ultimately lead police to the 24-year-old as a potential suspect in a string of rapes that began in 2015. His DNA would later be linked to eight open cases, including seven rapes and one sexual battery, police said.
“Had he not attempted to join the ranks of the Clayton County Police Department, it is questionable of when we would have apprehended him,” Clayton County Police Chief Kevin Roberts said at a Wednesday press conference aired by WGCL-TV.
Bowen was arrested earlier this week—putting an end to what Roberts said had once been “a cloud over our community.”
Police had been investigating a string of rapes that began in 2015. The suspected rapist appeared to target black women between the ages of 19 and 39, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
He’d often gain entry to an apartment or townhome through an unsecured window or attack the victim as she walked to her apartment and force her inside, WGCL-TV reports.
Police wouldn’t identify their suspect until after Bowen had tried to become a police officer himself.
Roberts said Bowen was hired by the department in June 2018 as a police recruit, but Roberts fired Bowen just a few months later in September after he had been absent without leave and “untruthful” about where he had been.
Roberts said Bowen had been scheduled to attend an academy training in September 2018. When he didn’t arrive, instructors contacted him and he gave them an estimated time of arrival of 30 minutes but Bowen didn’t show up for three to four hours. When he did arrive, Roberts said the former recruit lied about where he had been and who he had been with.
“I found that to be untruthful and a reason to remove him from our academy and our process,” he said.
Investigators would later identify Bowen as a possible suspect in the murders after going through old 911 calls to determine whether anyone had reported a prowler or suspicious person in the area near the rapes around the time the attacks occurred. During one 911 call from 2016, authorities were able to get the name and birthdate of a suspicious person who had been in the area, Clayton County Police Lt. Tom Reimers said Wednesday.
Using that information, they were able to find a photo of the person and compare it to a sketch created by the victims.
The photo and sketch bore “striking similarities” to one another, Reimer said.
Investigators also decided to go back through the victim’s reports to determine whether any of the victims were able to recall any small details about their attacker.
“By taking all clues, we were able to determine from some victims they reported he possibly had tattoos on his right arm. In one particular incident, a witness said they believed he had gotten into a grey Ford Taurus with tinted windows and left the location,” Reimer said.
Authorities were able to confirm that Bowen did own a silver Ford Focus with tinted windows. After looking into his social media activity, investigators also made the connection to Bowen’s past with the department and pulled up their own background information to confirm that he did have tattoos on his arm.
“It was really a culmination of looking at all the incidents not just one individual incident but looking at them all and getting information from the eyes of different victims in what they recalled with regards to the tattoos and his demeanor,” Reimer said at the press conference. “Without these victims coming forward and being brave enough to talk to us about what happened, we would not have caught this guy.”
Authorities were then able to secure a warrant for Bowen’s DNA, which they collected last week, ABC News reports. The positive result came back Tuesday and Bowen was taken into custody.
Reimer said Bowen declined to speak with authorities after his arrest. He is now being held in the Clayton County jail and was scheduled to make his first court appearance Wednesday.
“This was outstanding team work and outstanding investigative police work at its core, the county is safer on this day because of this collaboration,” Roberts said.
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