DNA evidence snares 2 men in 1986 rapes

Convicted in previous rapes, each reaches plea deal

December 14, 2006|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,sun reporter

Two convicted rapists pleaded guilty yesterday to abducting two women 20 years ago and raping them in the woods of northern Baltimore County.

The long-cold cases were solved when police matched DNA evidence from the 1986 sexual assaults to DNA samples collected from the two men in the course of other criminal cases, Baltimore County prosecutor Stephanie Porter said.

Martin Fedric Czosnowski, 41, of Essex and Anthony Klanavitch, 43, of Dundalk are scheduled to be sentenced in March.

The men met the victims at the Last Straw Bar in Essex and asked the women whether they wanted to "party," Porter said. The women declined but accepted the men's offer for a ride home.

"That ride home turned into a ride up Interstate 83 to the woods of northern Baltimore County near Pennsylvania," Porter said.

There, she said, Czosnowski and Klanavitch raped the two women, who eventually escaped, hid in the woods overnight and found their way to York Road at dawn.

The women went to a hospital, where they submitted to rape examinations and police collected the clothing they had been wearing during the attacks.

From there, the cases went cold.

In 2003, Baltimore County police received a federal grant that enabled the department to assign a detective to review unsolved sex crimes for DNA evidence.

At least a dozen men have been charged as a result, according to police, and several have been convicted. One man, convicted this year of a rape 25 years earlier, was sentenced in June to 90 years in prison.

Czosnowski and Klanavitch were charged last year with rape, kidnapping and other sex crimes in the 1986 attacks, according to court records.

Police matched evidence from the 1986 attacks to a DNA sample provided by one of the suspects as part of the state's routine collection of DNA samples for a database of convicted felons. As investigators combed one man's criminal record, they found that he had often been arrested with the other, Porter said.

When investigators compared cheek cells they had collected from the second man as part of another case to DNA evidence from the 1986 rapes, they got another match, the prosecutor said.

"It was just awesome police work," Porter said of the now-retired officers who collected the women's clothing in 1986 and the detectives who more recently followed the DNA trail to Czosnowski and Klanavitch. "It's their willingness and availability on these old cases that makes them viable."

The woman attacked by Czosnowski traveled from Texas for the trial, which was scheduled for yesterday. The trial was canceled after prosecutors and defense attorneys reached plea agreements in both cases.

Porter said the woman had struggled for years with consequences of the rape, including two breakdowns. She left the courthouse yesterday with a smile, the prosecutor said.

Although authorities found the second victim - the woman attacked by Klanavitch - in Indiana, they were unable to find her after she moved, Porter said.

The Sun does not identify victims of sexual assault.

Court records show that Czosnowski entered an Alford plea to one count of first-degree rape, meaning he did not admit guilt in the attack but acknowledged that prosecutors had enough evidence to convict him. It was unclear whether Klanavitch entered an Alford plea.

Czosnowski's criminal record includes convictions for rape, assault, theft, telephone misuse, drug possession, malicious destruction of property and trespassing, according to court records.

Klanavitch's record includes convictions for rape, second-degree sex offense, assault, battery, theft, malicious destruction of property, negligent driving, driving while intoxicated and failure to stop after an accident, according to court records.

As part of the plea agreements in the 1986 rape cases, Porter said, Czosnowski could be sentenced to up to 40 years in prison. Klanavitch's sentence could be up to 20 years. Prosecutors dismissed other charges against the men in the 1986 cases.

jennifer.mcmenamin@ baltsun.com

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