Man charged in 1991 murder of woman found in Urbancrest
A 67-year-old Columbus man is being held in the Franklin County jail on charges related to a sexual assault and murder case from 1991.
Although DNA evidence was left at the scene, a match wasn’t made until 2021, when state cold case investigators and sheriff’s investigators in Franklin and Licking counties got a hit.
Alma Lake was 30 years old when she was sexually assaulted and killed. Her body was discovered in the Urbancrest neighborhood.
Now, 32 years later, Robert Edwards of East Ninth Street is charged with aggravated murder in Franklin County Municipal Court.
Chief of investigations for the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office Rick Minerd said Edwards was charged after DNA matches with family members.
“One of the challenges in this case was that Mr. Edwards’ DNA was not in the national database, or at least not identifiable, and so that's where the familial DNA, and so forth and connecting those dots and the hours and hours of work that goes into that was able to start to identify a profile," Minerd said.
Edwards has not yet entered a plea and is scheduled to be arraigned on Aug. 17 in Franklin County Municipal Court.
Investigators said they believe Edwards is connected to other crimes, including a Licking County murder, but have not charged him with anything else.
“These cases are extremely difficult as time goes on, they get more and more difficult to solve. And so, just being here today, to give these families, hopefully, some closure... It's not over, you know, we still have a trial and all that kind of stuff. And so, but just to be here to finally put handcuffs on somebody," Minerd said.
BCI Superintendent Joseph Morbitzer said sometimes the statue of limitations runs out in cold cases before someone is charged or an investigation is successful.
"Right now, unfortunately, on some of the rape victims, we look at on these cold cases, the statute of limitations had run out. The same with the rape kits with the rape kit initiative. We did resolve a lot of those cases. But again, unfortunately, the statute of limitations had run out on some of the violators," Morbitzer said.
Franklin County Sheriff Dallas Baldwin said families still want closure, even if it takes decades to get it.
"Love never fails for a family member that becomes a victim of crime. You know, and that's why we do this," Baldwin said.
Roger Davis, the special agent in charge of investigations at BCI said cold case investigations have had some success in the state.
“We have had some success, and probably about 25 or 26 cases, we have brought to a prosecutorial standpoint. We currently, you know, are still involved on a multitude of levels on numerous cases, we are hopeful. Obviously, there's other cases we have that are close," Davis said.