Kalamazoo man sentenced for rapes dating back to 2001

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A Jan. 21, 2021, booking photo of William Johnson from the Michigan Department of Corrections.

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — A Kalamazoo man has been sentenced to years in a state prison after a program that takes up old rape cases linked him to multiple attacks between 2001 and 2014.

William Darnell Johnson, 39, was sentenced Jan. 11 to between 15 and 22.5 years in prison, the state attorney general and Kalamazoo County prosecutor, who worked together on the case, announced in a Friday release.

In victim impact statements, the women he assaulted said his conviction helped to restore their confidence and gave them hope.

Rape kits conducted in the first two assaults, which happened in 2001 and 2004, yielded the attacker’s DNA and the cases were linked. But because there was no match to a name, they went cold. Additionally, the 2001 victim was never told about the 2004 connection, authorities say.

Then in the fall of 2019, the 2001 victim learned about a program that might finally give her answers: the Kalamazoo County Sexual Assault Kit Initiative, which was formed in 2017 to investigate cases in which rape kits had been left untested. She reached out to authorities and Kalamazoo County SAKI took on her case.

Eventually, their investigation led them to Johnson.

After authorities charged him for the 2001 case, three more women came forward to accuse him of sexual assault. One of them was a woman who dated him in 2013 and said he repeatedly raped and beat her. Another said he raped her while she was visiting her sister, with whom he was living. The third, also a former girlfriend, said he tried to rape her in 2014.

As the criminal cases against him progressed, authorities say, Johnson called the 2014 victim and tried to get her not to testify against him.

Johnson ultimately pleaded no contest to third-degree criminal sexual assault in the 2001 case, third-degree CSC and assault with intent to commit penetration in the 2013 case, and assault with intent to commit sexual contact and witness interference in the 2014 case.

Authorities say he has previous convictions for assault and battery, domestic violence, resisting the police and unarmed robbery.

Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeff Getting said SAKI’s work has led to 10 convictions. Additionally, Brad Risner, 28, of Coldwater, now faces charges in Calhoun and Jackson counties after SAKI linked him to as many as a dozen rapes.

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