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April 27, 2023

DNA from coffee cup links Michigan man to rape at Penn State golf course in 2000, investigators say

Kurt Alan Rillema also is accused of sexually assaulting another woman at a golf course in the Detroit suburbs in 1999

Investigations Rape
Penn State golf course assault Thom Carroll/For PhillyVoice

Kurt Alan Rillema, of Michigan, has been arrested for allegedly raping a woman on a Penn State golf course in 2000 and sexually assaulting another woman at a golf club in the Detroit suburbs in 2000. DNA found on a coffee cup he discarded matched that of the perpetrator, authorities say.

A 23-year-old assault case at Penn State University allegedly has been solved thanks to DNA found on a discarded coffee cup, investigators say.

Kurt Alan Rillema, 51, of Michigan, has been arrested for allegedly raping a woman on a golf course at Penn State's campus in 2000 and sexually assaulting another woman at a Michigan golf course in 1999.

On July 27, 2000, a 19-year-old woman was jogging on a Penn State golf course when she was confronted by a man with a knife. He held the knife to her neck and sexually assaulted her, according to the sheriff's office. 

DNA evidence from the attack at Penn State was entered into FBI's CODIS national database and found to match evidence from a sexual assault that took place at the Twin Lakes Golf Club in Oakland Township, Michigan. In that incident, a 22-year-old woman had been working at a food stand when a person came through the employee-only door, demanded that she remove her clothes and sexually assaulted her.

Despite the match, the alleged culprit remained a mystery for decades. In 2021, authorities submitted a DNA sample for genetic genealogy testing. The results led investigators to consider three brothers as persons of interest. They honed in on one of them – Rillema – due to his age and the physical description the women provided of their attacker. 

Authorities in Michigan conducted surveillance on Rillema, obtaining a discarded coffee cup he used on Jan. 31. The cup was sent for DNA testing and matched the DNA recovered in the 1999 and 2000 cases, investigators said. Rillema, who owns a construction company, was arrested at his home in the Detroit suburbs on April 17.

Rillema is an "avid golfer" who "plays golf all over the country," Bouchard said in the press conference. He urged other potential victims to come forward, especially if their cases had similarities to the ones in Michigan and Pennsylvania.

The Oakland County Sheriff's Office collaborated with State College and Penn State University police in the investigation. 

Rillema is currently being held in Michigan. He could face life in prison if he is convicted of the first-degree sexual assault charge he faces there. He also faces second-degree criminal sexual conduct charges, according to authorities.

In Pennsylvania, Rillema faces a charge of rape by forcible compulsion, which carries up to 20 years in prison, but it is not clear when he will be extradited to face the charge. 

Last year, DNA from a coffee cup retrieved from a trash can in Philadelphia International Airport helped solve a Lancaster County cold case from 1975. Using the DNA, authorities identified David Sinopoli as the man who allegedly killed Lindy Sue Beichler, a 19-year-old woman who was brutally stabbed at her Manor Township home. Sinopoli was arrested in July.

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