Ohio man tied to 2 cold case murders, a year after acquittal in 1991 slaying

Police say  two Ohio cold case murders from more than 44 years ago were the work of a 75-year-old convicted rapist who was tried just last year in a 1991 cold case homicide -- and acquitted.

Karen Bentz, 18, and Loretta Jean Davis, 20, were abducted, sexually assaulted and stabbed more than one dozen times before their bodies were dumped on the side of the road in the 1970s, FOX8 Cleveland reported.

On Monday, Gustave Sapharas pleaded not guilty before a Tallmadge County judge to an indictment charging him with the two murders, News 5 Cleveland reported. He was ordered held on $5 million bond.

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In February 2018 Sapharas was tried for murder in the death of 21-year-old Bonita Parker, who died in 1991 in Licking County, Ohio. Authorities linked Sapharas to that case via a DNA match. Parker had been stabbed in the heart, the Associated Press reported.

Mugshot for Gustave Sapharas, 75.

Mugshot for Gustave Sapharas, 75. (Tallmadge Police Department)

The jury in that case cleared Sapharas after his defense attorney argued the DNA evidence only showed Sapharas had been with Parker, who worked as a prostitute.

The AP quoted prosecutor Bill Hayes as saying he respected the jury’s decision but believed Sapharas was guilty.

Bentz was killed in 1970 after being tortured, FOX8 reported. Her body was found in Tallmadge.

Davis was killed in 1975 and her body was found in Portage County.

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“We don’t give up and you never close a murder case,” Tallmadge Police Chief Ron Williams told the station after Sapharas was served with the indictment Sept. 10.

Williams credited “new technology, a fresh set of eyes and great, great detective work” for cracking the cases.

Sapharas spent time in prison for rape in the late 1970s, the station reported.

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Last week he declined to be interviewed behind bars, according to the Akron Beacon Journal, which reported on Sapharas' decades-long history of assaulting more than a half-dozen other women.