Suspect in Athens rape cases pleads not guilty on all counts

ATHENS OH (WCMH) –Shawn J. Lawson Jr. pleaded not guilty to all 11 counts against him and a judge issued him a $3 million bond in an Athens County court room Tuesday.

According to the Athens County Prosecutor’s Office, Lawson Jr. was arrested following a long-term investigation conducted by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, the Athens  County Prosecutor’s Office, Major Crimes Unit and the FBI.

Lawson is currently being held at the Southeast Ohio Regional Jail. He faces charges of rape, attempted rape, felonious assault, kidnapping and aggravated burglary.

According to the indictment, the cases happened between June 11, 2006 and December 12, 2015.

In January 2016, police in Athens released a sketch of a possible serial rape suspect. The cases were linked together by DNA evidence.

According to the Athens Police Department, at about 2 a.m., June 20, 2015, a woman was walking through a parking lot near the uptown area, when an unknown suspect approached her from behind and attempted to sexually assault her. Police said the suspect was scared away by other people walking in the area.

DNA evidence from that case was linked to a 2006 rape.

In 2006, the female victim was also walking home from the uptown area when she noticed an unknown man following her. Police said when the victim arrived home, the suspect illegally entered the residence and forcibly raped the victim before running from the scene.

At the time the sketch was released, Athens Police Chief Tom Pyle said, “We will find him. We have the DNA. You can’t run from DNA evidence so we will find him. It’s just a matter of time.”

Authorities said Lawson was also connected with another rape case in Lancaster, Ohio on March 17, 2017. they said DNA connected from that case matched DNA collected from the Athens cases.

Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn said this arrest is not Lawson’s first run-in with the law. Lawson was arrested and taken to juvenile detention in 2006. At the time, he was a student at Alexander Local Schools. Authorities said Lawson was also convicted of an OVI and improper handling of a firearm in 2016.

“He had a firearm in the vechicle at that time, and because he was intoxicated with a firearm, that makes that a felony,” Blackburn said.

Blackburn said that prior to Lawson’s latest arrest, he worked as a traveling tree trimmer, which makes Blackburn believe there may be other victims, possibly out of state.

In court, Lawson’s family wished him well. The family declined a request for an interview. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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