Boone County detectives solve 1978 rape case, suspect arrested in Georgia

Suspect arrested in 1978 rape case

PARK HILLS, Ky. (FOX19) - Detectives with the Boone County Sheriff’s Office have solved a 1978 rape case, and the suspect is under arrest in Georgia, authorities announced Friday.

“This is some of the most amazing police work I’ve ever seen!” Kenton County Commonwealth’s Attorney Rob Sanders said.

Agents from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation arrested Michael Dean Tate, 77, on charges stemming from a sexual assault in Park Hills on Oct. 1, 1978, according to a news release from Sanders’ office.

Boone County “Cold Case” Detectives Timothy Adams and Coy Cox obtained an arrest warrant for Tate on Thursday, charging him with 1st Degree Rape, 1st Degree Sodomy, and Kidnapping, according to Sanders.

Tate is currently being held in the Union County Jail on a $500,000 cash bond, the news release states.

Sanders applauded the tenacity of the cold case detectives, as well as Boone County Sheriff Mike Helmig’s commitment to justice for the victims of sexual assault.

"A lot of police executives would have balked at the cost of this investigation, especially for a case from a neighboring jurisdiction,” said Sanders. “But I can’t praise Sheriff Helmig and his team enough... they’re fantastic!”

Tate is awaiting extradition back to Kentucky.

The process could take days or months depending on whether Tate contests his extradition, Sanders said.

Each charge is a Class B felony carrying a possible punishment of 10-20 years in prison.

According to Sanders' office:

At approximately 4 a.m. on Oct. 1, 1978, a female in her 20s contacted Park Hills Police to report being raped and kidnapped.

The victim told police a man grabbed her by the throat from behind as she exited her car shortly after 2 a.m.

She said the man threatened to kill her if she continued to struggle or make noise. The man shut the victim’s car door and forced her into his car before driving to St. Joseph’s Lane in Park Hills where the victim reported being raped and forced to perform other sex acts against her will for about the next two hours. During the assault, the victim said her assailant bragged about having killed other women. She said she begged for her life and was eventually released alive. The victim then went to police.

Boone County cold case detectives began an investigation into the unsolved Park Hills’ rape and kidnapping case in 2017 after noticing similarities to an unsolved homicide in Boone County.

Detectives Adams and Cox found that Park Hills Police collected fingerprints from the car door closed by the assailant, but at the time, computerized fingerprint databases did not exist. The detectives submitted the prints to the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS). Eventually the detectives received notice from the FBI that the prints matched Tate. Adams and Cox tracked Tate down and found he lived in Georgia, however, further investigation documented his presence in Cincinnati in the mid-70′s.

More investigation by Adams and Cox located the victim of the now-41 year old Park Hills attack living thousands of miles away from Kentucky. The detectives flew to her new home for an interview and found she didn't know anyone named Michael Dean Tate. The victim said she parked her car in her garage, hadn't had it worked on or serviced recently, and didn't know of anyone who touched her car door except her assailant. Detectives couldn't find any reason Tate's fingerprints would be on the car door except if he were responsible for the kidnapping and assault.

On Wednesday, Adams and Cox traveled to Tate’s home in Union County, Georgia.

During a lengthy interview, Tate admitted to having raped a woman in Kentucky that he’d grabbed from behind as she exited her car in a garage.

Though he wasn’t sure of the exact date, Tate told detectives it “could have been 1978.”

Tate went on to admit to more sexual assaults in at least two additional states.

Detectives are now working on those additional cases as well.

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