26 Years After a Penn State Student Was Brutally Raped and Beaten, Authorities Arrest a Suspect

Scott R. Williams was arrested Tuesday after detectives used genetic genealogy testing

Scott R. Williams
Scott R. Williams. Photo: State College Police

A Pennsylvania man has been arrested for the rape and beating of a Penn State college student more than two decades ago.

Scott R. Williams, of Reedsville, has been charged with eight counts, including rape, aggravated assault and robbery, Centre County District Attorney Bernie Cantorna announced during a news conference on Tuesday afternoon.

Williams was arrested Tuesday after being identified by investigators through genetic genealogy testing, the DA said.

"[This arrest] is a combined effort of multiple police agencies and many investigators over the course of 26 years," Cantorna said.

Williams is accused of beating and raping a Penn State student in the early morning hours of May 13, 1995. The woman was found covered in blood and naked from the waist down in the middle of the road.

Investigators determined she had been attacked from behind while walking home and dragged to a flower bed, where she was raped and beaten with an object, according to an affidavit obtained by WJAC reports.

Cantorna said she had suffered fractures to her skull, face and jaw.

Investigators at the time collected DNA evidence at the time but the attacker remained unknown. The evidence was filed with the FBI and in March 2000 — shortly before the five-year statute of limitations ran out — an arrest warrant was filed for a John Doe with the DNA profile.

"Back in 1995, it was pretty common for crimes of violence where there was nothing other than physical evidence to identify a perpetrator to go unsolved and have the statute of limitations expired after that five-year period," Cantorna said Tuesday, noting that no other authorities in the eastern United States had ever filed an arrest warrant for a John Doe based on a DNA profile.

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In 2018, State College Police detective Stephen Bosak called Deputy District Attorney Sean McGraw and asked for his office's support in using genetic genealogy testing on unsolved cases in the department.

"We, of course, said we would do everything in our power to support him," McGraw said Tuesday.

Bosak worked with detective Nicole Eckley and used two private labs to run the crime scene DNA through a genealogy test, leading the pair to identify distant relatives of their unknown suspect.

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Over the next three years, Bosak and Eckley conducted numerous interviews and DNA testing until they had reconstructed a family tree that brought them, in January, to Williams's mother, who provided investigators with a DNA sample, authorities said.

Her sample confirmed that she was the mother of the suspect, McGraw said. The case was not the only the pair have been working on using the new technology.

"Detective Bosak and Detective Eckley displayed incredible commitment, tenacity, and judgment in their pursuit of justice in these cases," McGraw said Tuesday.

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"I hasten to add, however, that their work could not have been done without the extraordinary cooperation of many citizens across this commonwealth who voluntarily gave information as well as their own DNA in the pursuit of the men who committed the crimes in 1995 and 2010 through 2017."

The investigation remains ongoing. It is unclear whether Williams has an attorney to comment on his behalf.

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or go to rainn.org.

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