Defense says case against accused serial predator is too old to prosecute

Ralph Bortree (Logan County Sheriff's Office)

There are new developments in the cold case arrest of an accused serial predator.

Ralph Bortree was arrested last week, charged in a violent attack on a woman in 1993.

But police say DNA and other evidence connects him to a string of attacks on women in the 1990's.

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The case could be in jeopardy, as the defense argues it's too old to prosecute.

The crime Ralph Bortree is accused of happened in July 1993.

"26 years ago, a 19-year-old female was forced off the road, abducted at gunpoint, taken to a remote area. She was raped and then her throat was cut, and left for dead," said Logan County Prosecutor Eric Stewart.

At Bortree's arraignment last week, Stewart laid out the evidence.

"The state has DNA evidence, a factor of one in trillion that was determined by BCI (Bureau of Criminal Investigation) that his DNA matched the DNA that was collected by the crime scene in this case."

Even with that level of precision and certainty claimed by prosecutors, they were unable to charge Ralph Bortree with rape, because of Ohio's 20 year statute of limitations on rape.

Therefore, they charged him with attempted aggravated murder, for allegedly cutting the throat of the victim.

But Friday the defense argued time on that charge has also run out.

"Your Honor, in 1993, you'll see under A-1 for a felony other than aggravated murder or murder, the statute of limitations is 6 years," said defense attorney James Tyack. "We know this is not aggravated murder or murder, it's attempted aggravated murder. Therefore, we would suggest based on the 1993 rule, it would be simply 6 years."

The prosecution pointed to a 1999 change in Ohio law that extended the statute of limitations.

"In 1993, the law for aggravated murder, there was no statute of limitations," Stewart said. "For any other felony it was 6 years. But when the law changed in 1999, any crimes that were still within that 6 years, got the benefit of the extension."

"It doesn't matter. The statute of limitations is still expired," countered Tyack. "Either way, this case should not go forward."

The judge asked both sides for more supporting information, and will then decide whether or not to throw out the case.

Investigators say DNA also ties Ralph Bortree to a 1992 rape in neighboring Shelby County.

And they say his description matches two other unsolved attempted kidnappings in Shelby County.

Police say because of the statute of limitations, he will not be charged in any of those cases.

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