In another development in the macabre murder, rape and death penalty case of convicted killer David Steffen, a former Hamilton County, Ohio morgue worker admitted to engaging in sex with around 100 female corpses.
Kenneth Douglas acknowledged in a deposition that he had sex with the bodies – among them, the nearly decapitated body of 18-year-old Karen Sue Range – while he was high or drunk on the job at the county morgue between 1976 and 1992. In August 1982, Range was murdered and had her throat slit by Steffen, who was a door-to-door soap salesman at the time when he visited the Range family’s house in suburban Cincinnati and forced his way inside.
Steffen admitted to police in a recorded statement that he beat, stabbed and killed Range. He also told them that he attempted to rape her but could not get an erection. Later, he was unable to explain why semen had been found inside Range’s body, who was purported to be a virgin.
Based on that evidence alone, in 1983 a jury decided that Steffen had lied about raping Range and – along with trial and appellate courts that concurred – recommended he should face the death penalty.
In 2008, however, DNA evidence finally matched Douglas – not Steffen – to the semen found inside Range’s body. Douglas, now 62, subsequently admitted that he had raped Range’s corpse in the Hamilton County morgue about four hours after her remains were brought in from the crime scene. He was convicted of gross abuse of a corpse and sentenced to three years in prison.
The following year, Hamilton County Judge Beth Myers threw out Steffen’s death sentence and granted him a new trial – for the punishment phase only – because he had been wrongly convicted of rape rather than attempted rape. Prosecutors, however, said attempted rape was also an aggravating factor and Steffen remained eligible for the death penalty.
Meanwhile, Douglas pleaded guilty to sexually abusing two other female corpses and received a consecutive three-year sentence in 2010. The families of those victims, along with Range’s family, sued Hamilton County for failing to adequately supervise Douglas.
Douglas’ admission that he had sex with up to 100 female corpses came to light in August 2014 when the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the families’ lawsuits against the county could move forward. The appellate court found that Douglas’ supervisors were aware he had been drinking on the job and having sex with (live) women inside the morgue.
Douglas’ wife claimed in a deposition that she smelled sex on her husband when she picked him up from work, and reported him to the coroner’s office. The morgue supervisor reportedly told her to stop calling.
In February 2015, Hamilton County reached a settlement with the families of those who were raped, post-mortem, by Douglas. The county agreed to pay $800,000; a $2.45 million default judgment was also obtained against Douglas, though it is unlikely to be collected. The lead attorney representing the families was Al Gerhardstein. See: Range v. Douglas, U.S.D.C. (S.D. Ohio), Case No. 1:10-cv-00473-MRB.
In March 2016, Judge Myers resentenced Steffen to life without the possibility of parole.
“Finally there is some justice for Karen Range and closure for her family,” said Hamilton County prosecutor Joe Deters. “This has been a long time coming. This case has taken many twists and turns but my office never lost sight of the fight for justice for Karen and her family.”
Sources: www.wptv.com, WCPO, www.off2dr.com, www.truecrimereport.com, www.cincinnati.com, www.wlwt.com
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Related legal case
Range v. Douglas
|Cite||U.S.D.C. (S.D. Ohio), Case No. 1:10-cv-00473-MRB|