RAVENNA, Ohio – Bond was set at $1 million for the man suspected of raping at least three women.
Shawn Michael Wendling, 37, appeared via video in Portage County Municipal Court Monday afternoon. He faces one count of rape, with additional charges expected after the case is presented to a grand jury.
Wendling is being held in the Portage County Jail.
Investigators said Wendling raped two women on the Berlin Lake Trail in Deerfield Township and another woman who was jogging near Poland Township Park in Mahoning County.
Authorities said they have also linked Wendling to assaults against two women on Stark County trails.
After an assistant Portage County prosecutor called Wendling a serial rapist who brutally and forcibly raped multiple women, Wendling denied wrongdoing.
“I did not forcibly rape these women, and I have not done none of these things that they're saying that I've done,” Wendling told the judge. Portage County deputies said Wendling confessed to the crimes after his arrest.
Investigators said DNA linked Wendling to the rapes, and he was identified through the DNA of a relative that was in the CODIS law enforcement system.
Police arrested Wendling around 6 a.m. Friday in Poland Township as he drove to work in Canton along SR 224. The Portage 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, Wendling grabbed a woman on a trail in the Stark County Parks District, but she was able to get away.
Investigators said Wendling has also been tied to a July 4 assault and robbery of a woman on Middlebranch Trail in Canton.
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.
Deputies said Wendling had houses in Hillsville, Pennsylvania and in Canton. They said the attacks appeared to take place along the route from his Pennsylvania home to his workplace.
Investigators said there may be additional victims.