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Michigan man arrested in decades-old sexual assault in Las Vegas

Las Vegas police detectives have arrested a Michigan man in the sexual assault of a woman that occurred nearly three decades ago in northeast Las Vegas.

James Leonard Waters, 65, was booked at the Clark County Detention Center on June 15 in the Sept. 1, 1994, assault on a woman near Owens Avenue and Nellis Boulevard. An arrest warrant for Waters states the woman was walking to a grocery store when she was tricked by another female into going to an apartment to exchange phone numbers for the purpose of getting her kids’ hair braided.

When the woman entered the apartment, police said, she was immediately grabbed by a man, blindfolded, then repeatedly sexually assaulted. Police said she was held captive for nearly 12 hours. She was eventually put into a vehicle by two men, with one saying, “We can’t keep her alive.” Police said when the men drove her to another apartment complex they briefly got out of the vehicle, allowing her to escape.

“Agreeing to exchanging phone numbers was the only thing she consented to,” police said in the report. “She was not acquainted with the individual who sexually assaulted her.”

Las Vegas police were initially unable to identify any suspects. The investigation went cold until November 2018, when Las Vegas police began testing old, impounded sexual assault kits as part of a federal initiative. In May 2019, testing confirmed the presence of male DNA from the woman’s sex assault kit. In June 2019, police said they’d identified the DNA as Waters’ after Michigan State Police collected his DNA for felony drug-related offenses in 2019 in Genessee County, Michigan.

Police said they confirmed that Waters relocated to Michigan roughly two weeks after the sexual assault in Las Vegas. In January, police in Flint Township, Michigan, obtained new DNA samples from Waters. Testing from those DNA samples reaffirmed a match with the DNA in the sex assault case, police said.

“Waters stated he resided in Las Vegas for 25 years and worked as a cook in many of the casinos,” police said.

Police said Waters denied committing the sex assault or having any sexual contact with any woman other than his wife during their 45-year marriage.

Police said in the warrant that Waters lived about a block away from the victim at the time of the crime. Police said in the arrest warrant for Waters that they investigated the crimes of sex assault, kidnapping and battery but Las Vegas Justice Court records show Waters is currently charged with a single count of sexual assault.

A preliminary hearing in the case is scheduled for July 1. Waters remained in custody at the Clark County Detention Center as of Tuesday morning.

Contact Glenn Puit by email at gpuit@reviewjournal.com. Follow @GlennatRJ on Twitter.

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