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911 archives, suspect sketches and a traffic stop: How police caught an alleged serial rapist

Clayton County Police explained Wednesday how evidence finally led them to suspected serial rapist Kenneth Thomas Bowen III after a four-year search.

CLAYTON COUNTY, Ga. — It started with an idea that, after ruling out at least seven suspects through DNA tests and numerous others from interviews, perhaps investigators could pinpoint a serial rapist terrorizing Clayton County another way.

With the rapist targeting women at their homes, breaking in through windows and lunging out of bushes, investigators reasoned there was probably someone at some point who noticed him before he attacked and called in a suspicious person.

They were right, they now say.

Clayton County Police arrested Kenneth Thomas Bowen III on Tuesday, bringing to an end a nearly four-year streak of sexual violence, they said. On Wednesday, they outlined how that arrest came to be.

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Lt. Thomas Reimers of the Clayton County Police Criminal Investigation Division said after previous suspects were cleared, detectives began reviewing 911 calls for a suspicious person in the areas around the townhomes and apartment complexes where the rapist had committed assaults.

The review covered numerous calls from the last several years - calls that didn't generate a police report, but that might lead to a name, detectives hoped. 

Police said it did.

"We reviewed those calls and looked for names in the calls to see if perhaps an officer had in fact contacted him at some point in the past and run his name and birth date," Reimers said. "That did lead to obtaining his name and birth date from a call from 2016."

That led to a photo, which, according to Reimers, immediately stood out for the "striking similarities" it bore to the police sketches drawn by GBI sketch artist Kelly Lawson.

Credit: WXIA

Lawson, Reimers said, "has a gift - I can't even describe, must be from God."

"She was able to draw some amazing sketches from the victims' recollections of their assaults," he said.

From there they examined his background and scanned social media profiles, matching up details victims had gave about the suspect with details related to Bowen. 

That included, police said, his car broadly matching the description a witness had said the suspect drove away in after one attack and tattoos on his arm that matched a victim's description.

In Clayton County Police Department personnel files obtained by 11Alive, Bowen disclosed multiple tattoos on his left and right biceps and forearms.

Police also came upon the social media profile of a relative - which personnel records show was his brother - showing him in a Clayton County Police uniform, which is how they came upon the information that Bowen himself had once been hired by the police department.

Clayton Police Chief Kevin Roberts said Bowen was in the academy from June-September 2018, and was dismissed after he showed up hours late one day and gave evasive, contradictory explanations as to why.

With additional information Bowen had given to the department upon his hiring and cell phone records provided by the Clayton County District Attorney's Office, police obtained their search warrant last week.

That was done during a traffic stop, police said.

It came after they had set up surveillance at his work in another county. When he left, they followed him back into Clayton County and then executed the stop.

They did not explain how the DNA was obtained, but once they had it they sent it to the GBI testing lab, which brought back the positive match on Tuesday.

That's when U.S. Marshals executed him at his work.

Reimers said Bowen didn't betray any signs of distress at finally being caught after all these years.

"I can't say that he had any reaction to be honest with you," he said. "He was matter of fact, calm. He declined to speak with us." 

By contrast, the detective said, victims they reached to notify of Bowen's arrest were "ecstatic."

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