A retired police officer is charged with murdering two women and raping a third after DNA evidence collected after a sexual assault last week linked him to all three attacks, prosecutors said Friday.
Jeffrey Dean Moreland, 52, of Harrisonville, has been charged in Cass County with first-degree murder and armed criminal action in the death of Cara Jo Roberts, 30, who was shot in the head on Nov. 5, 2008, in her Harrisonville home. He is also charged with first-degree murder in Jackson County for the slaying of Nina Whitney, 75, of south Kansas City, who was stabbed and strangled in her home on Oct. 29, 2010.
Cass County Prosecutor Teresa Hensley said at a news conference Friday that the DNA evidence collected from the sexual assault of another Harrisonville woman last week tied Moreland to all three attacks.
"It's never easy for a victim of rape to come forward," Hensley said.
Moreland was a suspect in Whitney's death and refused to give detectives a DNA sample on June 16 when on June 30, he picked up a woman walking on the street in his black Jeep and offered her a ride home, investigators said in court documents. Instead, they say Moreland took the woman to his own house on the outskirts of Harrisonville and raped, then gave her money and drove her home.
According to court documents, the woman reported the attack the next day and took detectives to the home where she said she was attacked. One of the detectives immediately recognized it as Moreland's, who was a police officer in the Kansas City suburb of Grandview from 1984 until his retirement in 2005.
"I assisted Mr. Moreland in unloading a BBQ grill at his home ... approximately one year ago," a Harrisonville police detective said in a probable cause statement, adding that Moreland has "palsy" and had to leave his job due to an illness.
Police said Moreland fled to Iowa last week after a warrant was issued to search his home, and that he was picked up Tuesday in Des Moines and returned to Cass County Jail. In addition to the murder charges, he is charged with rape and two counts of forcible sodomy for last week's attack and remained in custody Friday on $1 million cash-only bond.
The prosecutor's office said he did not have an attorney representing him, and jail officials said they were not allowed to pass messages on to inmates and that inmates are not allowed to take incoming phone calls.
Roberts' husband, Jeff Roberts, said Friday that he is glad someone has been charged in his wife's killing.
"What I'm going through, you just don't think there would be other victims, too," he said.
Grandview officials moved quickly Friday to distance themselves from their former employee, whose name is still listed on some websites as the contact person for the Grandview Police Employee Association.
"The city truly sympathizes with the families of all involved," the city said in a news release. "The City of Grandview has not been associated with Mr. Moreland since his retirement in 2005 and has no further comment on the issue."
Detectives began suspecting Moreland was involved in Whitney's slaying after someone identified Moreland from a police composite sketch of a man seen walking down the street from Whitney's house the day she was killed. That person also said Moreland owned a black Jeep.