Cleveland man tied to decades-old rapes through genealogical DNA database pleads guilty

CLEVELAND, Ohio — A 61-year-old Cleveland man pleaded guilty this week to rape and sexual battery charges after investigators used DNA from a genealogy company to tie him to two decades-old rapes.

Leo Bradley Scott III, is set to be sentenced March 3 in the attacks that occurred in 1994 and 1998.

Scott pleaded guilty Monday, the day he was set to begin trial, to one count of rape and one count of sexual battery. Prosecutors dropped additional rape and kidnapping charges in exchange for Scott’s guilty plea.

Scott was charged as a result of Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley’s office’s G.O.L.D. Unit, which was set up through grant funding to use burgeoning DNA testing technology to investigate unsolved rape cases.

The unit pairs prosecutors with the Texas-based genetic testing company Gene by Gene and Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost’s Office’s forensic crime lab to use the same technique — and the same genealogist — that led to the 2018 arrest of the notorious Golden State Killer in California.

The process runs DNA collected from a crime scene through Gene by Gene’s database to find potential relatives of the assailant. Investigators then use old-fashioned police work to collect DNA samples to narrow down suspects.

The office recently announced it would begin using the technology in unsolved homicides.

“This sexual predator deserves to be held accountable for his actions,” O’Malley said in a statement that praised the work of the unit.

Scott was among the first four suspects the unit identified.

Scott grabbed a 22-year-old woman on Oct. 14, 1994, while she was walking on Euclid Avenue near East 118th Street and dragged her to nearby train tracks, where he sexually assaulted her.

In April 1998, prosecutors say Scott pulled up to a 26-year-old woman who was walking home from a party at the Zulu Motorcycle Club and offered her a ride. When the woman said no, Scott pulled her into the car, drove to a parking lot in East Cleveland and raped her inside the car, prosecutors said.

Bradley was convicted of rape in 1983, before courts and law enforcement began collecting DNA from defendants.

Another suspect identified by the unit, Bart Mercurio, pleaded guilty earlier this month to rape and other charges tied to a 1999 assault in Cleveland. He is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 16.

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