Two recent police reports have local families questioning whether they had a brush with human traffickers.
The first incident involved 18-year-old Kennedy Stokes, who said she and her cousin were approached by two men at a Walmart on November 21, reports 10TV. Stokes said the men tried talking to them several times and felt they were following them.
The next day, Strokes was experiencing car problems on her way home. She made it to the entrance of her apartment complex and got out to check under the hood. That’s when a man approached and began grabbing at her.
Stokes noted he was wearing gloves and appeared to have a box cutter in his hand, reports 10TV. She was able to escape his grasp and suffered scratches on her chest.
Stokes believes it was one of the men from Walmart.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY
The second incident happened 14 miles away at a UDF on Indianola on the same day Stokes said she was attacked, reports 10TV.
A mother and her 12-year-old son were filling up at the gas station. She then went inside to pay, leaving her son in the locked vehicle.
When she returned, she said her son was visibly shaken up. He told her a man was yanking on the door handle, trying to get inside the vehicle. According to 10TV, the man didn’t say anything, he only looked inside at the boy.
A security camera captured the incident, and police are currently reviewing the footage.
Both incidents have those involved wondering if they narrowly escaped a case of human trafficking. 10TV reports police are investigating both reports, including identification of suspects and motives.
Recent advancements in genealogy testing may be the much-needed push to close the thousands of cold cases that exist in Ohio. The recent closure to a 1982 Columbus homicide provides hope.
On Friday, the Columbus Division of Police announced the resolution of “one of CPD’s most intense investigations” at the Kimberley K. Jacobs Neighborhood Policing Center.
Those in attendance at the conference included Sgt. Terry McConnell; Det. Dana Croom; Deputy Chief Tim Becker; director of the CPD Forensic Crime Lab Angela Farrington; Hallie Dreyer of the BCI Forensic Crime Lab; Ofc. Greg Colarich; director at AdvanceDNA Amanda Reno; Sheriff Dallas Baldwin; Deputy Chief Greg Bodker.
Genetic genealogy testing and further police research played a crucial role in bringing some closure to the sexual assault and murder of 8-year-old Kelly Ann Prosser. Prosser was abducted while walking home from Indianola Elementary School on Sept. 20, 1982. The case was also recently brought to the public’s attention in part due to The 5th Floor–a podcast started by CPC dedicated to unearthing and closing cold cases.
After someone came across her raincoat, her body was traced to and discovered in a Madison County cornfield along A.W. Wilson Rd. on Sept. 22.
Over the next 38 years–with the unending support of Prosser’s family, thousands of hours of detective and police work, and a recent partnership with Advanced DNA–there is finally some closure to the ‘82 cold case.
Bodker mentioned that research into DNA evidence drastically improved around 2014 and ‘15. In March of this year, the CPD partnered with AdvancedDNA. It used to take months for DNA tests to come back; now law enforcement can now get results in a couple of weeks. The law enforcement services they utilized through AdvancedDNA were GenMatch and Family Tree DNA.
“Imagine in 1982 collecting something that you know one day wouldn’t exist,” Bodker said.
As of Friday, it can “positively and conclusively” be said that the killer was Harold Warren Jarrell. Jarrell is deceased and DNA from a third cousin was obtained to solve Prosser’s murder. Previously, 23 persons of interest were investigated and cleared in the case.
In 1977, Jarrell was charged with abducting an 8-year-old from Tamarack Circle on the northside of Columbus. He was released in January 1982.
Prosser’s family wasn’t in attendance because they “thought it was too soon,” but the family did provide a statement at the press conference that was read by McConnell. The statement included praise to the Columbus Division of Police homicide detectives and the advanced DNA investigative techniques. The statement also provided glimpses into the life of a promising, sweet, young girl.
“One moment we had this dazzling, mischievous 8-year-old little girl. Then suddenly all we had left were memories, photographs that will never age, a calendar marking a dreadful new ‘holiday,’ a grave, and pieces of Kelly’s life stored in a box.”
A statement from Prosser's family read on Friday by McConnell
Prosser’s mom had stayed close to the investigation all these years, even sending notes to the police department with pictures of Kelly.
The future does look bright for genealogical testing and its importance in solving cold cases. Right now, there is a case that the CPD is investigating using this knowledge. The police are also in the middle of a project to identify as many other cases as possible for this type of testing.
“We are pursuing those cases with the same vigor we pursued this case,” Booker said. “We are hunting you, and when we get the tools to hunt you, we’ll bring you to justice.”
A Columbus firefighter is being charged with attempted sexual conduct with a minor.
According to court documents per 10TV, 54-year-old Walter Lash is on leave without pay following conduct involving a 15-year-old girl on Feb. 26.
Columbus Fire Battalion Chief Steve Martin released a statement to 10TV on the charge:
“We have been aware of the charges against Lash. This is devastating to the division and is in no way representative of the values that define us as public servants. Lash will be afforded due process in court as anyone would be and then will face appropriate actions by the division of fire.”
Lash being held at the Franklin County Jail, and is due to be arraigned on Thursday.