Genealogy database DNA solves decades old violent rape cases in Washington state

Kenneth Downing, 47, is accused of breaking into two homes and raping women in the early 2000’s

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An eastern Washington man has been arrested for raping two women in Pullman two decades ago after authorities say DNA linked him to the crimes.

Kenneth Downing, 47, is accused of breaking into two homes and raping women in the early 2000’s, the New York Post reports. 

Scientist pipetting a DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) sample into a petri dish with a DNA profile in the background.

Scientist pipetting a DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) sample into a petri dish with a DNA profile in the background. (TEK IMAGE/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY via Getty Images)

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Downing, who is reportedly now a married construction worker with children, was taken into custody at a Spokane job site March 17. He has been charged with four counts of rape, three counts of assault and three counts of unlawful imprisonment with sexual motivation, among other charges.

"This cold case arrest was made possible through DNA matches, using evidence collected at the time that the crimes occurred," Pullman police said in a statement.

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For 18 years, police kept DNA evidence they collected, but they didn’t know whose it was until they entered in into a genealogy database. According to court documents, he was linked to the case after one of Downing’s relatives sent in a sample to learn more about their family tree.

Three women whose homes he allegedly broke into have been notified of Downing’s arrest, according to Pullman Police Sgt. Aaron Breshears.

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Downing’s bail was set at $5 million with prosecutors arguing he’s still a threat to the public. He was assigned a court-appointed attorney and is set to return to court March 25, KHQ-TV reports. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.