It’s been more than two decades since a student at Kansas State University fended off a man in his 20s who broke into her Manhattan apartment, leading the would-be assailant to run out after a struggle.
That first attack, though, would lead to others like it in Manhattan over a four-year period before similar attacks began happening 84 miles to the east, near the University of Kansas campus.
Eventually, the Lawrence and Riley County police departments discovered the attacks were connected, and likely the work of a lone individual who committed at least 14 known armed sexual assaults in the dead of night between 2000 and 2015. The man was dubbed the Kansas College Rapist, but he remains just as much in the wind now as he was during that first Manhattan attack.
An investigative true crime podcast is hoping to change that.
The Murder Squad, hosted by true crime journalist Billy Jensen and retired cold case detective Paul Holes, has spent 81 episodes diving deep into some of the world’s most heinous unsolved crimes. Each episode details what’s known and unknown about that week’s case, and then asks its listeners to help Jensen and Holes track down relevant new information in the hopes of finding answers.
The 82nd episode, which dropped Monday, profiles the Kansas College Rapist case, which Jensen — who attended graduate school at KU from 1996 to 1997 — acknowledges right from the beginning “is going to really frustrate you.”
Here’s the timeline of known Kansas College Rapist attacks. Law enforcement believes the offender may have committed other assaults that have not been reported, but currently, there have been no confirmed attacks since July 27, 2015.
- Oct. 1, 2000, Manhattan, 2200 block of College Avenue
- Aug. 11, 2001, Manhattan, also on the 2200 block of College Avenue
- March 29, 2002, Manhattan, also on the 2200 block of College Avenue
- Dec. 31, 2002, Manhattan, 1400 block of Harman Place
- May 30, 2003, Manhattan, 1400 block of Watson Place
- June 14, 2004, Manhattan, also on the 1400 block of Watson Place
- July 14, 2004, Lawrence, 3800 block of Clinton Parkway
- Dec. 29, 2004, Lawrence, 2000 block of West Sixth Street
- Sept. 5, 2005, Manhattan, 1400 block of Hillcrest
- June 13, 2006, Lawrence, 1900 block of Stewart
- Aug. 7, 2007, Manhattan, 900 block of Moro
- March 22, 2008, Lawrence, 3800 block of Clinton Parkway
- Dec. 1, 2008, Lawrence, 2700 block of Grand Circle
- July 27, 2015, Manhattan, 1400 block of Watson Place
During the episode, Jensen and Holes note several factors of importance during the timeline of attacks:
First: The first six attacks took place within a mile of each other, yet law enforcement doesn’t seem to have identified right away that there was a serial attacker on the loose.
Second: All but one of the attacks took place when college classes were not in session, or at the tail end of a holiday break.
Third: It wasn’t until 2009 and 13 rapes had taken place, that former Kansas Attorney General Steve Six and local law enforcement officials disclosed publicly that the attacks were believed to be connected. After that news breaks, there are no reports of similar attacks for six years.
Fourth: The seven-year gap between attacks is abnormal, and likely critically important to solving the case.
In the Murder Squad’s “Assignment” to listeners, the podcast asks for anyone with information they think could be helpful in catching the Kansas College Rapist to submit it either to the podcast, or to the police.
“The timeline could be key,” the description says. “Think about who is in town during those time periods, and who might have left town during that large gap from 2008-2015. And also do some searching to see if there are any other attacks on college campuses during that period with that (Modus operandi).”
In a brief text interview with The Lawrence Times, Jensen said their next step is to wait for tips from the public to start rolling in.
“But more importantly, we would like to speak with law enforcement at some point and help them with their DNA efforts,” he said. “We can assist in genetic genealogy to catch this rapist. We will even pay for the costs—law enforcement just needs to pick up the phone.”
Using genetic genealogy — or family trees — is a technology very familiar to Holes, especially. Holes was instrumental in the 2018 arrest of Joseph DeAngelo as the Golden State Killer, a notorious serial rapist and murderer who escaped law enforcement for decades in California. It was ultimately familial DNA uploaded to FamilyTreeDNA and MyHeritage that brought down DeAngelo, and Jensen said similar investigative techniques might have a similar impact in the Kansas College Rapist case.
“We always understand why some (law enforcement agencies) don’t want to talk—but this Rapist is still out there, justice for these victims hasn’t been served,” Jensen said in a text to the Times. “What do they have to lose?”