Cold case suspect set to appear in court Friday

Kenneth Downing pleaded not guilty March 18; bail is set for $5 million

The+live+animals+are+being+kept+at+the+Police+Department+and+have+been+continuing+to+receive+proper+professional+care+from+both+the+WSU+Veterinary+Teaching+Hospital+and+the+Whitman+County+Humane+Society.

DAILY EVERGREEN FILE

The live animals are being kept at the Police Department and have been continuing to receive proper professional care from both the WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital and the Whitman County Humane Society.

LIAM CONNORS, Evergreen reporter

Trigger warning: This article contains details about sexual assault that may be triggering for some readers.

The suspect in a series of sexual assaults and home invasions cold cases is scheduled to appear in court Friday.

Kenneth Downing, 47, was arrested on March 17 at his construction job in North Spokane, according to a Pullman Police Department press release.  Pullman PD used forensic genealogy to link Downing’s DNA evidence to multiple crime scenes from 2003 and 2004.

Downing pleaded not guilty in his first court appearance on March 18. Downing is facing 13 charges, and, if convicted, he could spend the rest of his life in prison, according to a KREM article. Bail is set at $5 million.

Prosecutors said Downing broke into a home on Water Street in 2003. The victim said she awoke after hearing creaking from upstairs. The suspect allegedly threatened her with a gun and asked if anyone else was home, according to KREM

Downing allegedly sexually assaulted the victim three times. At one point, the victim said Downing tried to make small talk about her pets. She said her rapist was wearing overalls and a ski mask, according to KREM.

The victim told prosecutors Downing threatened to return in two months if she reported him to police, according to KREM. Prosecutors said the victim still lives in fear after 18 years, and this was not Downing’s only victim. 

Police held onto DNA evidence that they collected at the crime scene, but they did not have a match until recently, according to KREM.

Either Downing or a family member entered his DNA into a genealogy database in order to find their family tree. This ultimately helped police track down Downing, leading to his arrest, according to KREM. 

Downing was also linked to a rape at an apartment that has now been converted to a hotel, where he tied one woman up after threatening her at gunpoint and then sexually assaulted her roommate, according to KREM.