HAMILTON COUNTY, OHIO –
On many nights over 16 years, Kenneth Douglas engaged in his own personal macabre workplace party.
He often brought drugs or alcohol to work and sometimes had sex with women.
At least three of those women were dead, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters said Thursday.
But if Douglas is to be believed, he could have had sex with as many as “over a hundred” bodies in the 16 years he worked as night attendant at the Hamilton County morgue.
“I am sure there are more (victims). I’m certain of it,” Deters said Thursday in announcing new indictments against Douglas.
“This guy’s just a pig. I can’t explain why someone would do something like this. … This is off-the-charts weird.”
Douglas, 55, of Westwood, already is serving a prison sentence after he pleaded guilty last year to abuse of a corpse. He admitted he had sex with the nearly beheaded body of 19-year-old murder victim Karen Range in 1982.
Thursday, Douglas was indicted on two more counts of abuse of a corpse after DNA evidence, Deters said, showed Douglas’ semen was in the bodies of two women who were killed in 1991 and stored at the morgue awaiting autopsies:
Charlene Edwards, also known as Charlene Apling, who was six months pregnant.
She was strangled to death Oct. 1, 1991, by Mark Chambers, now 47, in Chambers’ Avondale home. Chambers originally was charged with murder but accepted a plea bargain and was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and sent to prison for 10-25 years. He was paroled in 2000.
Angel Hicks, 24, of Westwood.
Tyrone Williams, 59, was charged with murder in the December 1991 death of Hicks. He was acquitted months later at trial. There was a question whether Hicks was killed or committed suicide.
Deters said he was stunned by so many aspects of the case: sex with a corpse, sex with violently mutilated or damaged bodies, sex with dozens of bodies.
“Frankly, it’s frightening. His numbers when he’s (talked to authorities) go from one to three or four to ‘a lot’ to maybe over a hundred,” Deters said, quoting Douglas. “I think it’s fair to speculate that he’s been doing this all the time, when he’s able and had the opportunity.”
After Douglas admitted abusing Range’s corpse last year, prosecutors said they suspected there were other victims. They called area law enforcement agencies asking for cases to investigate.
That evidence was mostly vaginal swabs taken from the bodies during autopsies.
Officials came up with 15 cases they believe could have involved Douglas. DNA could be found on 12 of them. Of those, two showed the semen belonged to Douglas.
“We’ll never know” how many victims there are, Deters said, “because (Douglas) doesn’t know. We probably won’t (ever) know the scope of his abuse.”
“It doesn’t surprise me there are other victims. What’s surprising is we were able to demonstrate it,” Deters said. Eighteen years ago DNA was in its infancy as an investigative tool.
Deters’ office contacted the family members of Edwards and Hicks to tell them of the new accusations against Douglas.
“It’s fair to say they were devastated by this news,” Deters said. “I feel badly for the families who are never going to know.”
Douglas, Deters added, told officials he remembered having sex with Range but didn’t recall Edwards or Hicks.
“No one ever saw this man do anything,” Deters said.
The closest, he believes, was an incident in which an assistant coroner tried to get into a room with bodies and found it locked. A few minutes after the doctor knocked, Deters said, “Douglas walked out.”
Deters supports a pending bill that increases the crime of abuse of a corpse – specifically having sex with a corpse – from one year in prison to five years in prison.
The crime at the time of the alleged 1991 incidents called for a maximum prison sentence of 18 months. That means the charges filed against Douglas on Thursday carry a maximum prison sentence of three years.
Douglas was caught when he violated his probation on a previous conviction, and his DNA was taken by officials and placed in a database. The database showed Douglas’ DNA matched that of the semen left in Range’s body.
“I hope,” Deters said, “I never see anybody like Kenneth Douglas again.”