North Georgia man, 77, charged in 1978 Kentucky rape case

Michael Dean Tate
Michael Dean Tate

Credit: Union County Sheriff's Office

Credit: Union County Sheriff's Office

A 77-year-old Blairsville man was arrested Wednesday after detectives in Kentucky linked him to a 41-year-old rape and kidnapping case, authorities said.

Michael Dean Tate was taken into custody at his home after investigators in Boone County reopened the 1978 cold case and identified him as their primary suspect, police said.

The alleged assault occurred the morning of Oct. 1, 1978, in Park Hills, Kentucky, authorities said in a news release. About 4 a.m., a woman in her 20s contacted the local police department and reported being raped and kidnapped.

She told detectives a man grabbed her by the throat as she exited her car and threatened to kill her if she struggled or made noise. The assailant then shut the woman’s car door before forcing her into his own vehicle and driving to another location, she told police.

For the next two hours, she was raped and forced to perform sex acts against her will, authorities said.

“During the assault, the victim said her assailant bragged about having killed other women,” prosecutors said in the release. “She said she begged for her life and was eventually released.”

Police collected fingerprints from the woman’s car door at the time, but there was no centralized computer database in 1978, so detectives had nothing to compare them to.

Boone County detectives Timothy Adams and Coy Cox reopened the case in 2017 after noticing similarities to an unsolved murder there, authorities said. The fingerprints collected decades earlier were entered into the database and linked to Tate, who had lived in the Cincinnati area in the ’70s, according to police.

Adams and Cox interviewed the woman, who told them she didn’t know Tate and couldn’t think of any other reason his fingerprints would be on her car.

They then flew to North Georgia to question the man, who reportedly admitted raping a woman in Kentucky as she exited her car.

Though he didn’t have an exact date, Tate told police it “could have been 1978,” authorities said. He also reportedly admitted to additional sexual assaults that occurred in at least two other states, authorities said.

Tate was charged with rape, kidnapping and first-degree sodomy. He’s being held at the Union County jail ahead of his extradition to Kentucky, jail records show.

In other news: 

Main suspect Wayne Williams and his key supporters say they are worried the widening of this case will derail the investigation.