The Necrophile Morgue Worker & The Corpse Rape That Exposed Him

August 21, 2017
By: Mike McPadden

HAMILTON COUNTY, OHIO — On August 19, 1982, David Steffen, posing as a door-to-door salesman, burst into the home of 19-year-old Karen Range, whereupon he beat the teenager, stuffed a rag in her mouth, and slashed her throat with a paring knife with such force he nearly took off her head.

Steffen eventually pleaded guilty to murdering Range, and said he also attempted to rape her, but he swore up-and-down he never actually completed the sexual aspect of the crime. Investigators initially didn't believe Steffen, since a medical exam found semen inside and all over the victim’s body.

Twenty-six years later, DNA technology would prove, horrifically, that the killer was telling the truth.

In 1983, an Ohio court found David Steffen guilty of first-degree murder and rape and sentenced him to be executed. For the next quarter-century, Steffen fought the rape conviction, hoping to get off Death Row.

He got a huge break in 2008. Steffen's attorneys convinced a judge to order a DNA test on the semen in question. Using technology that was previously unavailable, the process revealed a second horror that befell Karen Range on the very day she was slaughtered.

The fluid actually came from Kenneth Douglas, a married father of four who had worked in the Hamilton County Morgue for 16 years. The DNA matched a sample taken from Douglas earlier in 2008, after he’d been busted for drugs. He had raped Range's remains.

Douglas admitted to removing Range’s body from storage about four hours following its delivery, whereupon he got drunk, smoked crack, and said he did “remember removing her from the freezer” in order “to have sex with her.”

In short order, Douglas got three years in jail for “gross abuse of a corpse.” Eventually, Douglas confessed to sexually violating more than 100 dead bodies during his 16 years on the job.

The Hamilton County Morgue first hired Kenneth Douglas in 1976. He worked at night and said he regularly consumed copious amounts of alcohol during his shifts.

Come the eighties, Douglas added crack cocaine to the mix. He claimed that combination prompted him to start raping cadavers that were awaiting autopsies. As Douglas himself put it:

“I would just get on top of them and pull my pants down.”

Douglas had unfettered access to dead bodies until leaving the morgue gig in 1992. All the while, his wife suspected he was up to no good. She regularly picked him up from work and described him as “reeking of alcohol and sex.”

At one point, Pat Douglas, Kenneth’s wife, telephoned his supervisor to say she believed her husband was getting drunk and high at the morgue. The supervisor reportedly responded:

“Whatever happens on county time and on county property is county business.”

That quote would come back to haunt not just the supervisor, but a number of Ohio officials.

In 2012, Douglas pleaded guilty to sexually desecrating the bodies of April Hicks, who had fallen from a high window, and Charlene Appling, who was six months pregnant when she was strangled to death.

Two years later, the families of Douglas’s victims sued Hamilton County. The supervisor’s flippant comment about “county business” figured profoundly in the case, as did Douglas’s videotaped deposition, wherein he came clean about his scores of sickening atrocities.

After taking huge heat for fighting the suits, Hamilton County settled with the families of the victims in 2015. The following year, the State of Ohio cleared David Steffen of raping Karen Range and commuted his death sentence to life without the possibility of parole. He agreed to file no more appeals.

Kenneth Douglas, now 62, is out of prison and, by all known accounts, is keeping a low profile.

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