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Cold case solved: DNA evidence leads to suspect in a 1994 child sexual assault.

GRAPHIC-Lawrence Lekanoff.jpg
Washington State Sex Offender Registry

The case languished, unsolved, for almost 30 years, but DNA evidence collected in 1994 has finally led to a suspect in the sexual assault of a five-year-old girl at an Anchorage park.

Lawrence Andrew Lekanoff was indicted last week by an Anchorage grand jury. He is now 52 and was 23 when the assault took place.

The State Department of Law, which sought the indictment, says Anchorage Police initially investigated the case 28 years ago, but it went cold until the evidence was tested in 2020.

The DNA sample was in a collection of sexual assault kits tested as part of the Capital Project, a state initiative to analyze untested kits, gathered from 47 police departments.

When the 1994 DNA evidence was tested, it linked the assault to a suspect in the Lower 48. Police then reopened the investigation, and the Department of Law’s Office of Special Prosecutions presented the case to a grand jury.

Erin McCarthy, Alaska’s statewide cold case prosecutor, says the indictment sends an important message, that despite the passage of time, cases like this one are still worthy of attention.

“A lot of these cases are ones that Alaskan communities haven’t forgotten,” McCarthy said. "And some will never forget, so we can’t forget about them either.”

The girl who was raped in 1994 is now in her early 30’s. And while McCarthy can’t talk about the woman in this case, she says, for the most part, when a cold case is closed, it gives survivors of sexual assault some peace of mind.

“Often victims will feel like no one cared, or no one followed up on their report -- and that simply isn't the case,” McCarthy said. “There's a sense of validation as well. Some victims who never knew the identity of their assailant can take comfort in knowing who that person is now, and not feeling like they're always looking over their shoulder as well.”

While the DNA tests connect Lekanoff to the unsolved 1994 case, this is not the first time he’s been charged with sexual assault.

He was convicted of a similar crime in 1996, which took place at Cheney Lake and involved a six-year-old girl. Lekanoff is also listed as a registered sex offender in Washington State, Montana and Colorado.

Lekanoff was arrested on Monday and is awaiting extradition to Alaska.

Rhonda McBride has a long history of working in both television and radio in Alaska, going back to 1988, when she was news director at KYUK, the public radio and TV stations in Bethel, which broadcast in both the English and Yup’ik languages.