Ladon Andre Stephens
CRIME VICTIMS UNITED
This story is based on articles that appeared in The Oregonian on 5/30/2002, 6/1/2002 and 7/28/2002.
Ladon Stephens, 33, was arrested in the spring of 2002 for a rape that culminated more than a decade of vicious sexual predation.
Stephens had "a history of preying on girls" since he was a teen-ager." At age 15, he underwent sex-offender treatment as a suspect in several sexual assaults. He spent time in various juvenile facilities.
He served six years in prison of a 30 year sentence for three 1989 attempted gunpoint kidnappings. He was released after completing a "relapse prevention program." He was under post-prison supervision that included polygraph tests "to ensure he was not reoffending."
On February 9, 1997, less than two months after his release from prison, Stephens allegedly yanked a teenage girl off the street, choked her and raped her. He allegedly repeated this on another teenage girl eighteen days later and allegedly repeated it again on another teenage girl later that year. He was not identified as the rapist. "All this time, Stephens was under parole supervision as a high-risk sex offender." This included four meetings per month with his parole officer and two polygraph tests per year. During the polygraph tests, he was explicitly asked if he had any sexual contact with a minor.
From 1997 to 1999, Stephens fathered three children by three different women. This led to paternity suits which led to examination of his DNA by private companies. Although he was a registered sex offender and considered high-risk, he was not required to give DNA to the state because his prior conviction occurred before 1991.
On December 13, 2001, Stephens allegedly dragged Melissa Bittler, 14, off the street, raped her, and murdered her by choking.
At this point, police had not connected the three rapes in 1997 to one another nor had they connected the rapes and the murder of Melissa Bittler. In fact, DNA from the 1997 rapes had never been sent for DNA analysis. Stephens was one of 230 persons of interest in the Bittler case.
In the spring of 2002, investigators found the DNA from the 1997 rapes in storage, along with DNA from 1,000 other unsolved sex assault cases. None of this DNA had been examined. On May 28, 2002, investigators determined that the DNA from the three 1997 rapes and from the Bittler murder matched.
On April 28, 2002, Stephens allegedly raped his girlfriend's cousin. A month later, the police lab connected this latest attack to the earlier attacks through DNA. Stephens was finally arrested. He is now awaiting trial for the aggravated murder of Melissa Bittler.
The Multnomah County Department of Community Justice reviewed Stephens' parole supervision and found that "procedures were followed."
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