DNA links inmate to 1986 rape of deaf woman

Kansas City cold-case sex-crimes detectives have linked a federal inmate to the unsolved rape of a deaf woman in 1986, according to court records released Friday.

Jackson County prosecutors charged Alphonso Henderson, 50, with robbery, forcible sodomy and three counts of rape. He is in a Virginia federal penitentiary for being a felon in possession of a firearm. His previous record includes convictions for assault, false imprisonment, sodomy and burglary. He was set to be released in about 12 years, but police said the new charges could keep him behind bars much longer.

Court records gave this account of the Aug. 20, 1986, attack in the 3900 block of East 55th Street:

The 30-year-old victim awoke in bed and found a stranger pulling her hair and pressing a knife under her chin. Her four young children were also asleep in her bedroom. She indicated to the attacker that she was deaf, and he dragged her to one of the children’s bedrooms. He forced her to disrobe, then raped her three times and sodomized her. He pulled her around the home by her hair looking for money. He stole $295 from her purse that she had been saving to buy her children clothes for school, police said.

After the attack, the victim walked to a neighbor’s home and called police. In 2011, crime lab experts matched DNA recovered from the victim to Henderson.

Cold-case detectives picked up the case earlier this year and asked the victim whether she knew Henderson. She said she did not. Henderson denied attacking the victim when detectives visited him in prison in March.

Cold-case investigators said they triage their DNA-hit cases to focus first on ones involving suspects who are not behind bars. Their next highest priority are cases like this in which the suspect is expected to be released from prison soon, said Detective Keith Steinbach, who investigated the case.

Steinbach said he communicated with the victim through her son and through written questions and she was “very excited” that police did not give up on her case.