CLEVELAND (AP) — Ohio authorities charged a man Thursday with aggravated murder in the 1992 slaying of a woman at a truck stop, one of four such killings they say he is linked to through DNA evidence.
Samuel Legg III, 49, was extradited in January from Arizona to face charges in the sexual assault of a 17-year-old girl. He pleaded not guilty to two counts of rape at an arraignment in that case on Thursday in northeast Ohio's Medina County. Authorities say DNA also links Legg to that case.
A judge ordered that Legg, a former long-haul truck driver with what authorities say is a history of mental illness, be evaluated to determine if he is competent to stand trial.
Hours later, Legg was indicted in Mahoning County on aggravated murder charges in the April 1992 slaying of 43-year-old Sharon Kedzierski at a truck stop near Youngstown. A coroner ruled that Kedzierski died of blunt force trauma to the head, face and chest.
Little else is known publicly about the other truck stop slayings. Authorities have said three of the four were in Ohio in the 1990s and the fourth was in Illinois.
Legg's court-appointed attorney declined to comment after the Medina County hearing. It's unclear if Legg has an attorney yet for the Mahoning County murder charges.
Legg was originally a suspect in the 1997 rape, but no charges were filed because of detectives' concerns at the time about the victim's credibility, Medina County Prosecutor Forrest Thompson told The Associated Press on Thursday. Thompson took office in January 2017. Authorities say Legg had given a ride to the teen, who was hitchhiking home to Lexington, Ohio, after visiting her boyfriend in Cleveland.
Thompson said investigators got a break in the rape case in December while technicians with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation were looking for matches to DNA from the truck stop slayings. Because there was no exact match in the bureau's database, technicians used updated technology to search for a male family member whose DNA profile was similar to the unknown suspect's. A match was made and an investigation pointed to Legg as a suspect not only for the truck stop slayings, but the 1997 sexual assault as well.
Thompson subsequently reopened the rape case, focusing on Legg.
"We decided there were questions unanswered in the original investigation," Thompson said. "I thought the decision not to prosecute was premature."
Thompson said he and a Medina County sheriff's detective flew to Arizona in mid-January, where they obtained a DNA sample from Legg, who was living in a group home in Chandler. The new sample confirmed Legg's link to the rape and homicides, Thompson said.
Legg had minor brushes with the law over the years, Thompson said, but nothing that would have required him to provide a DNA sample until it was obtained in January.
Thompson said he expects the publicity surrounding Legg's case will attract attention from other law enforcement agencies with similar unsolved slayings.
"We should not be surprised if there are other victims," he said. "The people who do these crimes don't quit on their own without some kind of interruption."