A man suspected of raping three women more than 20 years ago killed himself after prosecutors collected DNA evidence tying him to the crimes, the Cobb County District Attorney’s Office said Monday.
The three sexual assaults occurred in southeast Cobb between June and October 1999, the DA’s office said. The attacks occurred at separate locations within a three-mile radius and each woman told police she woke up to find an unknown man standing over her in the early morning hours.
The attacks were immediately reported to Cobb police, and the victims underwent medical exams during which sexual assault forensic exams were performed.
The DNA collected from the rape kits was tested by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, and the DNA profile from each kit indicated the same man attacked the women, the DA’s office said. However, the profile did not match any offenders in the combined DNA Index System known as CODIS.
Senior Assistant District Attorney Theresa Schiefer, who was investigating the cases, approached the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council in 2018 and asked if Sexual Assault Kit Initiative funds could be used to pay for re-testing. The Council agreed with the request and awarded the DA’s office $10,000.
The DNA profile obtained from the kits was provided to Parabon NanoLabs, which ran tests to determine the physical features of the suspect. That company also submitted the profile to GEDmatch.com, which located a possible ancestor of the suspect. Using information from that test, the company was able to build a genetic tree that led to the identification of a suspect.
The Georgia Sexual Assault Kit Initiative and Cobb cold case teams researched the suspect’s background, and found that he “not only that he lived in metro Atlanta at the time of the crimes, but had arrests for charges that include peeping tom, indecent exposure, and burglary incidents in Cobb and Gwinnett counties around the time of the rapes.”
Investigators learned the suspect was Lorinzo Novoa Williams, a 48-year-old man living in El Dorado, Arkansas. They traveled to Arkansas where state police helped execute a search warrant to collect his DNA to compare it to evidence Cobb investigators had on file.
“In an interview after the sample was collected, the suspect denied committing any sexual assaults,” the DA’s office said.
The following day, Cobb investigators learned from their Arkansas counterparts that the suspect was reported missing and was later found dead from an “apparent suicide.”
The GBI tested the sample taken from the suspect and his DNA was a match to the profile found in the three Cobb County rapes, the DA’s office said.
Schiefer, who spoke with the victims after the DNA tests, said each one was “overcome with emotion upon learning the news.”
“One woman said she often watched television shows about cold cases being solved and told us, ‘I always wondered when it would be my turn,’” Schiefer said. “I feel very fortunate that we could provide some answers to these women after all this time. We want anyone who has experienced sexual assault to know that we will continue to work their cases in hopes that their turn will come, too.”
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