MEDINA — DNA testing has linked a former long-distance truck driver to a 1997 Medina County rape case and four unsolved homicides, three in Ohio and one in Illinois, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost and Medina County officials announced Wednesday.
Samuel William Legg III, 49, has so far only been charged in the rape case but is being investigated in connection with the homicides. He will be arraigned Thursday morning in Medina County Common Pleas Court.
Yost was unwilling during a news conference at the Medina County Sheriff’s Office to say exactly where the homicides occurred, except to say none were in Medina County. He said the killings happened in the 1990s both before and after the Medina County rape.
Medina County Prosecutor S. Forrest Thompson said the rape victim, who was 17 when she reported being assaulted at a Speedway at Interstate 71 and U.S. Route 224 in Westfield Township, is pleased that charges have at last been filed.
“I think she was more relieved to finally be believed,” said Thompson, who became the prosecutor in January 2017. “She wants to see the man brought to justice. She was devastated by the gravity of the other cases.”
Yost and Thompson credited DNA technology and cooperation among law enforcement agencies in Ohio and other states with the potential break in the cold cases.
The new developments began in December in another Ohio county with an investigation of an unsolved murder by the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation (BCI) and prosecutors. Investigators took a sample from an unknown male who was a suspect in the murder and looked at familial DNA, which searches for Y chromosomes shared by men in the same family.
The search led them to the results from a rape kit from the unsolved Medina County rape case, indicating the person responsible was in the same family as the person tied to the murder, Yost said.
The attorney general’s office reached out to Thompson, who dusted off the long-dormant rape case.
The rape involved a 17-year-old girl from Lexington who said she was sexually assaulted on Sept. 7, 1997, by a truck driver who gave her a ride when she was hitchhiking back home after visiting her boyfriend in Cleveland. Lexington police did a rape kit and turned it over to the Medina County Sheriff.
Detectives and prosecutors identified Legg, an independent truck driver who worked for a company in Hinckley and drove through Ohio and other states, as a potential suspect but opted not to prosecute. They cited credibility questions, Thompson said.
Thompson said he found “insufficiencies in the investigation” and asked Medina County Detective Kevin Ross to follow up on them.
“We made the decision the rejection of the case was premature,” Thompson said.
Investigators traveled to the group home where Legg was living in Chandler, Ariz, on the outskirts of Phoenix, arrested him and obtained samples of his DNA. They gave the samples to BCI, which confirmed Legg’s DNA from the 1997 rape kit, Yost said.
Thompson said Legg has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, and this may have been the reason for his placement in the group home. He said Legg lived in several states, including Florida and Texas, and likely ended up in Arizona because his late father lived in Tucson.
Thompson said Legg has a criminal history, but nothing so serious that he was on the radar for serious crimes.
Legg is charged with two counts of rape, a first-degree felony, and is being held at the Medina County Jail on a $1 million bond. He will be arraigned 9 a.m. Thursday before Medina Judge Joyce Kimbler.
Legg’s DNA also was linked to four unsolved homicides, all involving female victims killed at truck stops and left naked or partially naked, Yost said.
“The Medina case gave us the key to unlock the identity,” Yost said.
The developments of this case also have likely drawn the interest of other law enforcement agencies, Thompson said.
“Every law enforcement agency in the [Interstate] 71 corridor will probably take a hard look at this,” he said.
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705, firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter: @swarsmithabj.