DNA evidence leads to suspect in 20-year-old Howland cold case

HOWLAND, Ohio (WYTV) – Howland’s police chief is on his way to New York to pick up a suspect in a 20-year-old rape and assault case.

New DNA testing led investigators to 48-year-old Jack Sheetz, who is now living in Utica.

He is charged with the rape and attack of an elderly woman inside her Howland Township home in 1996. No arrest was ever made and the case went cold.

Police have reopened the case twice since then but this time, they say they hit on a DNA match.

“This is that key piece of evidence that you need in any type of case like this,” said Jeff Edmundson, a detective for the Howland Police Department.

Sheetz was a neighbor of the then 75-year-old victim, who has since died. According to a police report, the victim told officers that Sheetz said to her, “You will probably call the police when I leave, and they will try and get a DNA sample.”

He was questioned all those years ago, but denied any involvement.

“But again, in ’96, the science wasn’t there. So they had nothing to throw at him,” Edmundson said.

Sheetz’s DNA was in the database the last time they sent the sexual assault kit off for testing because he had served a prison sentence in 2006. He has since been indicted by the Trumbull County Grand Jury, giving closure to both the family and investigators.

“I know that this case had haunted them for a while just because of the sheer brutalness of the attack,” Edmundson said. “You always want to get some closure for the family.”

Now police are in Utica, hoping to bring Sheetz back Trumbull County later this week, where he’ll be arraigned on felony charges of rape and aggravated burglary.


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