BY JANE PRENDERGAST
The Cincinnati Enquirer
BURLINGTON -- The arrest of a handyman -- a man convicted for rape twice before -- spread relief Friday throughout Northern Kentucky, where he is accused of three more attacks on women.
Police said the arrest of 44-year-old Franklin Ralph Roark Jr. apparently solves home-invasion rapes this month in Burlington and Butler, and likely another last month in Fort Wright.
The assaults had put many block-watch groups across Northern Kentucky on alert and sent more police patrols into residential neighborhoods.
Boone County Police Capt. Jeff Martin called Mr. Roark, previously convicted of rape in 1975 and 1987, a sexual predator. He said that the arrest left investigators with more of a sense of satisfaction than most do.
"Anytime that you have someone that preys on women, that preys on anybody, you want to solve it," Capt. Martin said. "But certainly, this is one of those that really felt good to put in jail."
Mr. Roark, while being taken to jail Thursday night, insisted he was innocent.
He is charged with two counts of rape for attacks in Pendleton County and Burlington, as well as with burglary, robbery and being a persistent felony offender. The latter allows judges to add more prison time. A charge had not been filed Friday in the Fort Wright case, although investigators there said they believe Mr. Roark is their suspect, too.
Mr. Roark remained in the Boone County Jail on Friday under $1 million bond.
Capt. Martin said he hopes he's behind bars for the rest of his life.
Mr. Roark was 19 in 1975 when he went to prison for another Boone County rape. In that case, he spent time at the Kentucky State Reformatory in LaGrange, where he was shot at by guards in August 1975 when he tried to escape -- which led to more charges. He was in prison a decade for that rape, Capt. Martin said.
Mr. Roark then went back to prison in April 1987 for a list of crimes in Oldham and Trimble counties: rape, sodomy, burglary, robbery, escape, theft, stealing a motor vehicle and being a persistent felony offender. He was sentenced to 15 years.
He got out July 1, 1997, after spending 10 years and two months in prison -- the adjusted minimum considering good time and other credit.
Detectives were frustrated when they learned their suspect had been convicted of the same thing before. But at the same time, Capt. Martin said, Mr. Roark's past is what led them to him this time.
"He hasn't changed much in all these years," he said. "He did and said about the same things. That was unfortunate for these women, but fortunate for us."
Investigators from the Kentucky State Police and Fort Wright met with Boone County to discuss each of their similar cases, Lt. Jack Banks said.
Although they won't say exactly what about the rapist's methods were similar, the detectives realized they must be talking about the same man. The rapes in Fort Wright and Burlington were home-invasion rapes; the attacker was already in the house when the victims came home.
From there, Lt. Banks said, the investigators learned that Mr. Roark had done some handyman work for the landlord who owns the duplexes on Curley Court in Burlington where a 55-year-old woman was raped early Sunday.
He also had done some work for the owner of the house where a Fort Wright woman was attacked Sept. 17.
Until his arrest Thursday night, Mr. Roark was the manager of Butler Commons Apartments in Pendleton County.
The rape in Butler took place Oct. 15.
As the news of Mr. Roark's arrest spread Friday, the Boone County investigators' phone began to ring with calls from more police departments wanting to check facts of their rape cases against what happened in Fort Wright, Burlington and Butler.