UPDATE: Bond set for former coroner's office employee accused of abusing corpse

Kenneth Douglas (Courtesy Hamilton County Sheriff's Office)
Kenneth Douglas (Courtesy Hamilton County Sheriff's Office)
David Steffen (Courtesy Ohio Department of Corrections)
David Steffen (Courtesy Ohio Department of Corrections)

By Dan Wells - bio | email


UPDATE: Current Hamilton County coroner Dr. Odell Owens held a press conference Tuesday, assuring the public that new policies and procedures are in place under his administration.

"We have excellent, outstanding people in the coroner's office," Owens said. "These kind of issues do not exist in this office."

However, Owens said that while he strives to place the best people in the office, sometimes things happen.

"There are certain quirks in people that can't be controlled," he said. "Those things happen. They aren't happening now."

Owens said he was shocked to learn the news, calling it horrific and saying it's the worst thing that could possibly happen in a coroner's office.

Owens said the process has begun of looking at all corpses that Douglas may have had contact with. So far, they have collected 29 rape kits from 1976-92 and sent them to the forensics lab. He said the focuses is mostly on homicide cases, because those are only cases that rape kits are taken.

UPDATE: Kenneth Douglas appeared in court Tuesday for arraignment. His attorney, Norm Aubin, entered a not guilty plea on his behalf.

Prosecutor Mark Piepmeier requested a high bond, saying, "someone capable of what Mr. Douglas is charged with is capable of anything, as a result, we would ask for a high bond."

Judge William Mallory set bond at $700,000.

Douglas will be in court again on Aug. 12.

"Dealing with a guy like this, you're tempted to call him some type of animal, but that's really not fair to animals, because animals don't do things like this," said Piepmeier. "This is just one sick dude."

Piepmeier would not reveal details of an interview with Douglas, only saying that he's positive there are more instances of Douglas abusing corpses.

"If there's other cases we can prove he abused corpses, we'll be going after him on those, too," Piepmeier said.

Meanwhile, Hamilton County coroner Dr. Odell Owens has scheduled a press conference for noon Tuesday. FOX19.com will bring you any developments from that conference.

UPDATE: Kenneth Douglas will be in court on Tuesday for arraignment. Prosecutors say if convicted, he could be sentenced to up to 18 months behind bars.

PREVIOUSLY: A former morgue assistant with Hamilton County has been indicted, and a 25-year-old mystery has been solved.

Kenneth B. Douglas, 54, of Western Hills, is now charged with gross abuse of a corpse after his DNA was found inside of a corpse while he was a morgue assistant with the Hamilton County Coroner's Office.

Hamilton County prosecutor Joe Deters said Monday during a press conference, "There are no words to describe the disgust everyone associated with this case feels."

Douglas is accused of sexually assaulting the corpse of Karen Range.

Range was 19-years-old when she was murdered in August of 1982. David Steffen was selling home cleaning products door-to-door in Roselawn when he entered Range's home and murdered her after she resisted his attempts to sexually assault her.

Steffen admitted to the crime and was sentenced to death in May of 1983 on charges of aggravated burglary and purposeful killing during a rape or attempted rape.

Late last year, the Ohio Attorney General's Office decided to test fluid found in Range's body. The fluid did not belong to Steffen or Range's fiance. The sample was placed in the national CODIS database.

Steffen's case has been under appeal. Steffen admitted to stabbing Range, but always denied raping her. His attorneys now say he shouldn't be eligible for the death penalty because prosecutors can't prove he raped Range. In Ohio, defendants can only be executed if they are convicted of murder and another violent crime. Prosecutors say attempted rape is still enough to warrant the death penalty.

On Thursday, July 24, 2008 Ohio's Bureau of Criminal Investigation alerted the Hamilton County Prosecutors Office that there was a hit in CODIS with the sample taken from Range.

The donor was identified as Douglas. He was arrested July 25, 2008 on an outstanding probation violation. His DNA was taken following drug trafficking charges in March of this year.

Deters says Douglas was a 16-year-employee of the coroner's office, working there from 1976 until 1992.

"We have reason to believe this happened more than once," Deters said.

Deters says the coroner's office, with assistance from the Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office, will begin to review all of the autopsies taken while Douglas was an employee.

"I think we have an obligation to the residents of this county to review every autopsy that occurred in his 16 years of service," said Deters.

Range's mother, Laurie, spoke with FOX19 from her home in Florida. She says she's shocked about the indictment and that Douglas' arrest has provided the family with some closure in the case, and also answered some tough questions.

"I wouldn't even have anything to say to this Douglas," Laurie Range said. "I would just look at him with the most disgusted look on my face."

In the last 20 years, Hamilton County's paid nearly $20 million to settle lawsuits from cases in the coroner's office, including when employees removed corneas, brains and other body parts without permission. One morgue worker also allowed a photographer into the morgue, who placed objects onto bodies and took pictures of them.