Serial rapist pleads guilty to Pullman crimes 18 years later

SPOKANE, Wash. — The man suspected of multiple home invasions and rapes in Pullman from nearly 20 years ago pleaded guilty.

Forty-seven-year-old Kenneth Downing pleaded guilty to four counts of first-degree rape and one count of felony second-degree assault with sexual motivation, in Whitman Superior Court.

Downing was arrested at a Spokane job site in March.

READ: Suspect in cold case rape arrested at Spokane job site

According to court documents, in one case, Kenneth Downing, known as the Pioneer Hill Serial Rapist, entered a woman’s room, walked around her house, and raped her at gunpoint. In a second case, he broke into a house, pointed a gun at two victims, tied one to a chair, and raped the other. All three of these women were Washington State University students at the time.

Eighteen years ago, one woman came forward to the Pullman Police, and then four months later, two more women came forward reporting home invasions and rape. The Pullman Police Department conducted a very thorough and intensive investigation in both cases but no suspect was identified and the case went cold.

The Pullman Police Department pursued Forensic Genetic Genealogy, with funding from the Washington State Attorney General’s Office, and a profile came up that matched Kenneth Downing. DNA from Downing was confirmed a match to the crimes.

“It allows people to put this away I think. They can put it behind them. There is nothing to worry about anymore, in this regard. There is no more wondering. The answer is settled and most importantly, it’s settled for the survivors,” explained Chief Deputy Prosecutor Dan LeBeau.

Lebeau says this is one of the biggest cases in the community over the past 20 years and this speaks to the dedication of the officers who were assigned to the case.

“They never gave up. One officer, who worked on the case from the beginning, never stopped carrying around DNA swab kits with him through the entirety of the process,” LeBeau told us.

Officers have worked with other agencies to determine if Downing could have committed other crimes since the initial felonies back in 2003 and 2004. So far, nothing has come up.

“There is nothing to indicate at this time he’s connected to other crimes but if anybody thinks it’s possible they have an unsolved crime, they should absolutely come forward to their local law enforcement agency and report it,” LeBeau added.

Downing’s sentencing is scheduled for August 19th & he faces at least 17 years in prison. He’s in the Whitman County Jail in Colfax on a $5 million bond.

READ: Man pleads guilty in Pullman cold-case rapes

READ: How police identified a rape suspect 18 years after the crime