PRESS RELEASE, 7/28/2008

Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph T. Deters announces indictment of former Hamilton County Coroner employee

25 YEAR OLD MYSTERY SOLVED

 

"There are no words to describe the disgust everyone associated with this case feels. Our prayers are with the family of Karen Range," commented Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph Deters.

 

Today, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joseph T. Deters announced the indictment of 55 year old Westwood resident Kenneth Douglas on a charge of Abuse of a Corpse. This charge is a felony of the 5th degree which carries a possible penalty of up to 12 months incarceration.

Douglas is charged with sexually assaulting the body of Karen Range after her brutal August 19, 1982 murder by David Steffen. Steffen was convicted of her aggravated murder and rape in 1983 and is currently on Ohio's Death Row. Steffen gained access to Miss Range's Roselawn home on the pretext of demonstrating a cleaning product that he had for sale. The 19 year old Miss Range was home alone at the time. Her mother discovered her daughter's body when she returned home from work later that day.

Today's indictment ends a 25 year old mystery as to the source of semen found in and on Miss Range's body upon coroner testing in 1982. Authorities at that time were unable to match the semen to a perpetrator as DNA was not yet developed. ABO blood typing in 1982 could not eliminate Steffen as a possible match.

On March 17, 2008 Douglas was convicted of a drug trafficking offense and on that same day he was ordered to provide a DNA sample pursuant to Ohio law. The DNA sample was processed in the DNA Database (CODIS) and matched the 1982 sample from Miss Range's body. Investigators discovered that Douglas had been an employee of the Hamilton County Coroner's Lab in 1982 which coincided with the time that Miss Range's body would have been at the lab for testing. Douglas is charged with sexually assaulting Karen Range's body while it was at the lab.

Background

Karen Range was the 19-year-old, virtuous, loved daughter of Laurie and Ray Range. She was engaged to be married. Her mother has repeatedly told investigators that Karen was a virgin, saving herself for her husband.

During the Labor Day weekend of 1982, David Steffen was selling home cleaning products door-to-door in the Cincinnati neighborhood of Roselawn. He entered the home of Karen Range under the ruse of selling these products.

Steffen, according to his own statement and overwhelming evidence, savagely murdered Karen after she resisted his attempts to sexually assault her. He beat her severely and, using a paring knife, Steffen delivered a massive wound to her neck causing her death.

Steffen was tried in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court for her Aggravated Murder in May of 1983 under case number B-8204004. He was indicted two separate ways; for her purposeful killing during an aggravated burglary, and second, for her purposeful killing during a rape or attempted rape.

During the course of the trial, Steffen's attorneys argued that Karen was not the virtuous person portrayed by the State of Ohio. They argued that the presence of semen found in her body during the autopsy countered the claim of her virginity and virtue. The State countered that that fact was insignificant, that in Steffen's own statement he said that he attempted to rape her, but he was unsuccessful. The law states that the attempt to rape is sufficient to convict.

Steffen was found Guilty As Charged. A jury recommended the death sentence and on May 17, 1983, Judge Robert Kraft sentenced David Steffen to death.

The Prolonged Appeal Process

After Steffen's conviction for Karen's murder, Ohio's laborious appeals process began. The case wound its way through every state court and every possible federal court. The Ohio Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court have reviewed this case no fewer than five times. The case has been on appeal for over 25 years.

As science developed throughout the 1980's and 1990's, DNA testing of bodily fluids for identification purposes became almost commonplace. Interestingly, the public defenders handling Steffens case never requested the testing of the semen found inside Karen Range.

DNA Testing

Late last year, the Ohio Attorney General's Office decided to unilaterally test the semen found inside of Karen. The results bothered everyone familiar with the case. This decision was made after the defendant refused to agree to court ordered testing.

The gathered evidence did not belong to Steffen.

It was not from her fiance.

It was not from the suspect the state public defenders had fingered as the possible killer.

Simply put, literally no one with known contact with Karen during that time tested as the donor with the known sample.

The sample was then placed in the national CODIS database.

The Break in the Mystery

Last Thursday, July 24, 2008, Ohio's Bureau of Criminal Investigation alerted the Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office that a "CODIS hit" had occurred with the known sample recovered from the body of Karen Range. The individual who was the donor of that sample was Kenneth B. Douglas.

On July 25, 2008, after being arrested on an outstanding probation violation, Investigators from the Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office obtained overwhelming evidence that Douglas worked as a morgue attendant at the Hamilton County morgue in 1982, and that he did sexually assault the body of the deceased, Karen Range.