Investigators in Clayton County say the background information a former police recruit provided to the department helped link him to a slew of sex crimes.
Kenneth Bowen III, 24, was arrested at his job in Union City on Tuesday after forensic evidence linked him to seven rapes and one case of sexual battery since 2015, Clayton County Police Chief Kevin Roberts said during a news conference Wednesday morning.
“Had he not attempted to join ranks in the Clayton County Police Department, it is questionable as to when we would have apprehended him,” Roberts said.
Bowen was hired by the department June 25, 2018, Roberts said. He was fired less than three months later, on Sept. 12, 2018, after he arrived to training nearly four hours late and was not truthful to supervising officers about where he was during that time, Roberts said.
Investigators said Bowen’s brief stint with the department helped to unravel the case.
Police previously said the suspected rapist targeted black women between the ages of 19 and 39.
The most recent attack linked to Bowen was a woman who was raped at knifepoint inside her home in the 7000 block of Southlake Parkway in March, AJC.com previously reported. Authorities said a man forced the woman inside her home and started raping her, but was interrupted by her boyfriend.
Authorities said the man ran away before police arrived. In a statement, police said it canvassed the area with police dogs but couldn’t find the man.
Five of the rapes happened between July 2015 and May 2017, police said. All but one woman lived in apartment or townhouse complexes in Clayton County, in the area of Battle Creek Road between Jonesboro and Riverdale.
At one point, investigators said they didn’t suspect the cases were linked because the man did not use the same method to intimidate or gain access to the victims. The GBI later found evidence confirming the victims were assaulted by the same person.
Victims gave investigators details about the attacker and a GBI forensic artist created multiple sketches based on the accounts, according to Lt. Thomas Reimers, an investigator in Clayton County.
“We realized that it’s possible that if he was committing these crimes, breaking into women’s windows and assaulting people by buildings near their apartment complexes, then somebody over the last few years must have talked to police and said, ‘This guy is a suspicious person in the area,’” he said.
Credit: Asia Simone Burns
Credit: Asia Simone Burns
Investigators started reviewing 911 calls reporting suspicious people near the area where the attacks took place.
Reimers said detectives reviewed the calls to see if officers had made contact with any of the suspicious people and then got names and birthdays of those people.
Bowen’s name and birthday was among those names related to a call from 2016, Reimers said. When investigators obtained a photo of Bowen, they saw a striking similarity between his visage and the GBI sketch of the suspected rapist, he said.
They then revisited the incident reports filed after the attacks to see if any of the details pointed to Bowen. Victims had told police the attacker had tattoos on his right arm and had left in a gray car with tinted windows. Police found that Bowen had a silver Ford Focus with tinted windows, Reimers said.
While trying to determine if Bowen had tattoos, investigators dug into his social media and found a photo of him with a family member who was dressed in a Clayton County police uniform. That detail, in turn, led investigators to the discovery that Bowen had also worked for the police department.
“And through looking at background information provided, we determined that he reportedly had tattoos on his arm,” Reimers said.
The family member is no longer employed by Clayton police, Reimers said.
A search warrant for Bowen’s DNA was obtained last week and executed Tuesday, Reimers said. The GBI used the DNA sample to forensically link Bowen to the eight attacks.
Officials said the attacks all happened within a 2-mile radius of where Bowen lived.
“I wanted to address the victims,” Reimers said. “They are true survivors. Without them coming forward to the police department to provide details of the assaults in intimate detail and sitting down with (GBI sketch artist) Kelly Lawson, we would not have been able to get a sketch of the individual.”
Police previously linked the suspected rapist to another attack where a man tried to sexually assault a woman after breaking into her apartment. There was no DNA evidence connecting that case to the other attacks, but authorities said the method used by the suspect was similar.
Bowen was scheduled for a first appearance Wednesday in Clayton County magistrate court, according to District Attorney John Fowler. No preliminary hearing has been set.
Asia Simone Burns is a watchdog reporter for the AJC. Burns was formerly an intern in AJC’s newsroom and now writes about crime. She is a graduate of Samford University and has previously reported for NPR and WABE, Atlanta’s NPR member station.