Suspect in sexual assaults of women on Portage County trail identified, arrested

DEERFIELD TWP., Ohio - The Portage County Sheriff's Office announced the arrest of 37-year-old Shawn Michael Wendling, of Hillsville, Pennsylvania, for the rapes of two women on the Berlin Lake Trail in Portage County and another woman near the Poland Township Park in Mahoning County.

Authorities said they have also linked Wendling, who they call a serial rapist, to assaults against two women in Stark County parks.

Investigators said DNA linked Wendling to the rapes, and he was identified through DNA of a relative who had previously been arrested which was in the CODIS law enforcement system.

Poland Township Police arrested Wendling around 6 a.m. Friday as he drove to work in Canton along SR 224. The Stark County Sheriff's Office said Wendling confessed to the rapes.

Deputies said at about 6:30 p.m. on June 14, Wendling grabbed a 68-year-old woman who was walking her bike on the Berlin Lake Trail, threw her down an embankment and raped her, then stole her cell phone and jewelry.

Investigators said earlier that day, he had grabbed a woman on a trail in the Stark County Park Districts.

Investigators said Wendling has also been tied to a July 4 assault and robbery of a woman on a park trail in Stark County.

On August 13 at about 6 p.m., investigators said Wending attacked a 47-year-old bicyclist on the Berlin Lake Trail, knocking her from her bike and taking her down an embankment where he raped her. He stole her cell phone, clothing, jewelry and bicycle, according to authorities.

Poland Township Police said on September 4, Wendling grabbed a 30-year-old woman who was jogging on a road surrounding Poland Township Park, threw her into brush and raped her, then stole her cell phone.

Wendling has been charged with one count of rape. He is being held in the Portage County Jail and is scheduled to be arraigned on September 10.

Deputies said the case will be presented to a grand jury for additional charges.

Continuing coverage.