Jan. 22 (UPI) -- Georgia authorities have used new DNA technology to solve three serial rape cases that were more than 20 years old, the Cobb County district attorney announced.
The crimes occurred in separate locations, but within three miles of each other, in southeast Cobb County between June and October 1999. In each case, a woman was assaulted in her home.
Although DNA tests at the time confirmed the same suspect, it took modern testing to solve the crime, officials said. The Georgia Sexual Assault Kit Initiative provided $10,000 in funds in 2018 to reopen the cold cases and identify Lorenzo Novoa Williams as the suspect.
Investigators with a warrant traveled to Arkansas to obtain a sample of Williams' DNA. He denied responsibility for the crimes and ultimately went missing. Days later, he was found dead of an apparent suicide, officals said.
"The DNA profile from each of the three kits was identical -- indicating the same perpetrator raped each of the women," the DA's office said in a statement Tuesday. "But despite repeated checks, that profile never matched to any known offender.
"In early 2019 the profile was obtained and submitted to Parabon NanoLabs, which used phenotyping to ascertain the physical appearance of the donor. Parabon also uploaded the DNA file to the public website GEDmatch.com and determined a potential ancestor of the rapist, then built the genetic tree forward, ultimately highlighting a possible suspect."
Cobb County investigators said Williams lived in the area at the time of the rapes and had committed other unrelated crimes.
"Even if it takes 20 years, we refuse to give up," said Cobb County District Attorney Joyette Holmes.
"I started crying," one of the victims said after she was informed of the break. "The fact that after 21 years Cobb County has never given up on me and my case is what made my heart swell."