30 years after crime, Missouri inmate accused of rape

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (AP) — Three decades after a young man broke into the home of a woman in Cape Girardeau and raped her, DNA evidence has led to charges against a man already in prison for another rape.

The Southeast Missourian reports that 50-year-old Charles O’Howell was charged Tuesday with rape after the Missouri State Highway Patrol crime lab matched DNA from O’Howell to DNA obtained from the victim after the assault in 1981.

O’Howell is an inmate at the Northeast Correctional Center in Bowling Green, where he is serving a 55-year term for kidnapping and raping a 15-year-old girl in 1982. He did not have a listed attorney for the latest allegations, though he has told authorities he was not involved in the 1981 crime.

In that case, a woman who was 31 at the time said a young man came to her home claiming to have car trouble and asking to use the telephone. Court documents indicate the woman spoke to the man through a crack in the door, took a phone number from him and went inside to call.

The woman claimed the man jerked the door open, pushed his way inside, then held a knife to her throat and raped her. The man told her if she told anyone he would kill her, according to the court affidavit.

The woman contacted police, and a medical exam was performed. Evidence from a rape kit was stored at police headquarters. It was that evidence that eventually connected O’Howell to the crime.

In November, Cape Girardeau detective Jim Smith asked the state crime lab to analyze DNA evidence from the victim’s clothing, hair and fibers. In March, the lab’s Combined DNA Index System database matched O’Howell’s DNA to the evidence.

O’Howell has already been in prison since the early 1980s. Authorities say he saw the 15-year-old victim riding a horse, then pursued her, breaking into her parents’ home, kidnapping her at gunpoint and raping her.

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