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Ketchikan man convicted in 1993 sex assault case reopened based on DNA evidence

Jan. 19—A 54-year-old Southeast Alaska man was convicted Tuesday on sexual assault charges stemming from a 1993 cold case involving a teenager that was reopened as part of an initiative to examine untested DNA samples.

Ketchikan resident Michael Williams was charged with first- and second-degree sexual assault in 2021. His trial got underway last week in Ketchikan Superior Court — roughly 30 years after the assault occurred.

The trial lasted a week and the jury deliberated for less than an hour before finding Williams guilty on both charges, according to assistant attorney general Erin McCarthy, the prosecutor in the case.

[Former Alaska man charged in cold case sexual assault from 1995]

Williams was arrested after investigators discovered his DNA was a match to a sample collected during the original investigation in 1993, according to a probable cause statement written by Ketchikan police Lt. Andrew Berntson and included with charges.

A 14-year-old girl had reported to police at the time that a man she didn't know raped her on a baseball field on a January night, the statement said. The stranger told her he was armed with a knife and would harm her if she made noise or told anyone about the assault, it said.

Police investigated but were unable to find a suspect and the case went cold.

The sexual assault kit at the center of this case was processed in 2004 when technology improved and DNA profiles could be identified, McCarthy said in a phone interview Thursday.

In 2017, Williams was identified as a suspect in a separate sexual assault case, according to the Ketchikan police statement. He has not been charged in that case, McCarthy said.

A sexual assault kit was collected at that time, but it wasn't tested until 2021 when it was submitted as part of a statewide initiative to test unsubmitted kits collected from individual law enforcement agencies, McCarthy said. An earlier initiative focused on unsubmitted kits collected by the Alaska State Troopers.

DNA in the 2017 test showed up as a match to that found in the Ketchikan cold case and investigators were then able to identify Williams as a suspect, McCarthy said.

Williams was in custody Friday at the Ketchikan Correctional Center and is being held without bail until his sentencing hearing in late April.