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May 7, 2014

Roseville police make arrest in 1998 rape case

By Kevin Bunch
C & G Staff Writer

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Michael Loftis sits in the 39th District Court as Judge Catherine Steenland reads the charges against him. Loftis was arrested and charged with the kidnapping and rape of a senior woman in 1998.

Roseville police have arrested a suspect in a kidnapping and rape that occurred 16 years ago.

Michael Loftis, 44, of Clinton Township, was arrested by Roseville police officers May 7 and arraigned the same day on one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, one count of kidnapping, and one count of unlawful imprisonment. If convicted, he could face up to life in prison.

Loftis has a preliminary examination scheduled for May 14, and while Loftis requested a low personal bond so that he could get back to work, Judge Catherine Steenland did not agree and set his bond at $1 million cash.

“I respectfully deny a personal bond and have something different in mind,” Steenland said. “This offense is very serious. You have a previous (criminal sexual conduct conviction) on your record and a failure to comply with sex offender registry reporting. I’m inclined to set a $1 million bond.”

The court entered a not guilty plea on Loftis' behalf, and he requested a court-appointed attorney.

According to Police Chief James Berlin, Loftis allegedly approached and attempted to rob a 62-year-old woman in July of 1998 as she was leaving a bingo game at the Sacred Heart Church Festival.

“She didn’t have any money,” Berlin said. “For whatever reason, he (allegedly) kidnapped and assaulted her.”

The Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office alleged that Loftis forced the victim into her car, took her to a liquor store parking lot at 12 Mile and Interstate 94 and raped her in the vehicle.

According to a Prosecutor’s Office press release, the victim survived and was taken to St. John Macomb Hospital for treatment, with lab samples from her clothing and car seat material processed in a Michigan State Police lab in Northville.

Berlin said the DNA sample finally had a hit in the Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS database, last summer. Loftis was a convicted sex offender from a similar, previous case around 1994, Berlin said, but at the time it was not a requirement for convicted sex offenders to submit a DNA sample for the CODIS.

However, Loftis was traveling to California last year, which requires registered sex offenders to provide DNA samples, and Berlin said Loftis’ sample matched with the samples recovered from the 1998 assault.

Roseville police detectives led by Detective Bradley McKenzie worked with state police and county prosecutors to assemble the 16-year-old evidence to make an arrest. Berlin said they effectively had to take the old case file and restart the investigation from scratch, which involved interviewing witnesses and people who worked on the case years ago and making sure their memories were reliable.

Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith said that while the police were building their case against Loftis, his office had to go over the legalities of prosecuting a case that was 16 years old. He said there are statutes of limitations to deal with, and as the victim herself had died of natural causes in 2011, they had to work off hearsay testimony.

“I think we have solid legal ground to get him off the streets,” Smith said.

He also mentioned the work that the Roseville Police Department did to combine modern forensics databases and technology with “shoe leather police work.”

Berlin said Loftis was arrested from the tool-and-die shop he works at in Shelby Township.

Aside from his convicted criminal sexual conduct charge from 1994, Loftis also was found guilty in a domestic violence incident in 2010, disturbing the peace in 2009, and an alcohol offense in 2001. He also failed to follow sex offender registry reporting requirements in 2006.

Berlin said detectives had spoken to the victim’s family, and while there had been an “up and down wave” of emotion for them with this old wound reopened, they were pleased it was being pursued now. He added that detectives reported the last years of the victim’s life were “ruined” over this incident.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Kevin Bunch at kbunch@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1030.