Local News Spotlight

Sex offender is accused of raping two teens in 1992

Updated: 2012-12-11T15:39:07Z

By CHRISTINE VENDEL

The Kansas City Star

Jackson County prosecutors charged a convicted sex offender Monday with two counts of forcible rape after Kansas City police linked his DNA to the unsolved rapes of two teens in 1992.

Investigators from the police department’s cold case squad arrested Keith L. Harris, 48, on Sunday at his Platte County home. Harris, who works as an over-the-road truck driver, previously was convicted of raping a 27-year-old woman in New York in 1995.

The two 1992 victims told police they were at a tavern in Kansas City, Kan., when a man who identified himself as “Keith” approached, said he was from Louisiana and offered to take them to another tavern in his semi. They agreed, but the man instead drove them to a vacant dirt lot near Nicholson and North Monroe avenues in Kansas City.

The man pulled a knife, forced the teens into the sleeper area and ordered them to disrobe. He pressed his knife against one victim’s throat and threatened to kill her. He told the victims, ages 18 and 19, that he had a gun before raping them.

One victim escaped the truck and ran to a nearby home to call police. The rapist let the other victim go before driving away. When the first victim returned to the scene, the rapist was gone and the second victim was in a police car.

Police collected evidence from the second victim and developed a DNA profile of an unknown offender. But eventually the case went cold.

In 2010, Harris’ DNA profile was added to a national database after he moved to Missouri and registered in Platte County as a sex offender. Evidence from the 1992 double rape had yet to be entered into the system.

Earlier this year, cold case investigators reviewing unsolved cases added the unknown offender’s profile to the database. It matched Harris’ DNA, according to court records.

One of the victims was excited to hear of the break in the 20-year-old case, but the other victim reacted with more hesitation because she hadn’t told many people about the attack, said Detective Keith Steinbach, who investigated the case.

Harris’ New York case bore similarities to Kansas City’s case, Steinbach said. The New York victim told police she met Harris in a bar and he offered her a ride home in his semi. Instead, he raped her inside the cab.

He served eight or nine years in prison before returning to Louisiana, where he had grown up, Steinbach said. He married a woman he had impregnated before going to prison, and the family moved to Missouri. His daughter is 18.

He pleaded guilty to marijuana possession in October, according to online court records.

He remained in jail Monday on a $350,000 bond.

To reach Christine Vendel, call 816-234-4438 or send email to cvendel@kcstar.com.

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