Defendant indicted August 20, 2019, is a serial rapist connected to (5) crimes

Atlanta–Fulton County District Attorney Paul L. Howard, Jr., announces the RAPE and KIDNAPPING indictment, by a Fulton County Grand Jury, of serial rapist 38-year-old CLEOPHUS WARD.

In October of 2018, the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office received a $1 million grant from the United States Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance. The grant provided funding for a cold case rape kit unit which allowed Fulton County prosecutors to identify, locate, interview, and prosecute cases involving 156 defendants identified through DNA comparisons found in rape kits. 1,500 rape kits had been stored at Grady Memorial Hospital for in some cases as many as 30 years until Grady and the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office entered into an agreement allowing the submission of the rape kits to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. GBI experts identified 156 rape suspects from the kits.

March 7, 2000 Incident:

On March 7, 2000, the 19-year-old victim, in this case, was a student at Spelman College. The victim left the campus that day and walked in the direction of the West End Mall on her way to a MARTA station. As she walked, the victim was approached by Cleophus Ward who was driving a dark-colored vehicle. The victim mistakenly believed the driver was a friend from Morehouse College, so she entered the vehicle after he asked if she needed a ride. After the victim entered the vehicle, she immediately realized she did not know the driver and demanded to be let out, but Ward continued driving. Ward pulled the vehicle into a cul-de-sac and forced himself upon the victim. The defendant proceeded to rape her. After the rape, Ward continued to drive the vehicle but eventually let the victim out and sped off. The following day on March 8, 2000, the victim underwent a sexual assault kit at Grady Memorial Hospital. Her sexual assault kit was not received by the GBI until November 10, 2015. A Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) match to Cleophus Ward was identified on June 22, 2018. In July of 2019, the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office conducted an interview with the victim in this case in preparation for the indictment which occurred on August 20, 2019.

“The survivor, in this case, is an extraordinarily strong woman who believed that justice would never come. However, this indictment is an incredible relief to her and her family as the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office continues to seek justice on her behalf.”

Julianna Peterson
Senior Assistant District Attorney
Fulton County District Attorney’s Office Sexual Assault Kit Initiative

Cleophus Ward Criminal History:

Through the course of its investigation, the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office determined Cleophus Ward was a serial rapist who preyed on multiple women in the early 2000’s. Ward raped or attempted to rape four women within a (2) month period in 2002, (2) years after the rape of the victim on March 7, 2000. Ward typically targeted female victims who were walking or standing along the street. The defendant would offer the victims a ride in his vehicle in his efforts to abduct and rape the women.

  • March 7, 2000: Ward kidnapped and raped a 19-year-old Spelman College student inside his vehicle.
    • Ward was indicted for Rape and Kidnapping on August 20, 2019 following a CODIS match.  
  • March 26, 2002: Ward abducted a 21-year-old female victim and attempted to rape her.
    • The defendant pleaded guilty on September 16, 2004, to Agg. Assault with Intent to Rape, False Imprisonment, Armed Robbery, and Kidnapping. Ward was concurrently sentenced to 30 years to serve 15 years concurrent with the other charged cases.
  • April 30, 2002: Ward raped a 22-year-old female victim at gunpoint inside his vehicle along Belmont Avenue.  
    • Ward pleaded guilty on September 16, 2004, to Rape, Agg. Sodomy, Agg. Assault, and Kidnapping and was sentenced to 30 years to serve 15 years concurrent with the other charged cases.
  • April 30, 2002: Ward forced a female victim and her two small children into his vehicle at gunpoint while she was walking to church. Ward then drove the female victim to an abandoned house where he forcibly raped and sodomized her.
    • Ward pleaded guilty on September 16, 2004, to Rape, Agg. Sodomy, and Agg. Assault with a Deadly Weapon and was sentenced to 30 years to serve 15 years concurrent with the other charged cases.
  • May 14, 2002: Ward offered a ride to a 20-year-old female victim who was waiting at a bus stop. Ward attempted to remove the woman’s clothing and to touch her breasts inside his vehicle. While stopped for gas at a service station, the victim was able to escape the vehicle.
    • Ward pleaded guilty on September 16, 2004, to False Imprisonment, Robbery, and Sexual Battery (Misdemeanor). The defendant was sentenced to 10 years to serve in prison concurrent with the other charged cases.
  • 2017: Ward was released from prison after serving his sentence for the cases detailed above. However, after his release, the defendant was re-arrested in Fulton County for Fleeing or Attempting to Elude a Police Officer, Theft by Taking, Obstruction, Reckless Driving, and Driving on a Suspended License. The defendant was indicted for these crimes and pleaded guilty on July 31, 2019. Ward was sentenced to 10 years to serve 3 years and is currently in state custody.

The Criminal Justice Coordinating Council and it’s Executive Director, Jay Neal, are the managers of the DANY grant utilized to test the majority of Fulton County’s sexual assault kits, including the Cleophus Ward kit. The CJCC works to ensure the untested sexual assault kits are examined. The funds are available due to the extraordinary efforts of the CJCC to secure this critical grant.

“The Criminal Justice Coordinating Council is proud to collaborate with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Department of Forensic Sciences, law enforcement agencies, and district attorney’s offices statewide in the pursuit of justice for victims of cold case sexual assaults. We applaud the excellent work of the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office in prioritizing these cases and holding offenders accountable.”

Jay Neal
Executive Director, Criminal Justice Coordinating Council

“I am proud to say that the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office Sexual Assault Kit Initiative is fully living up to the mission set out by the US DOJ who awarded our office with the $1 million dollars in funding to identify and prosecute these dangerous serial rape defendants. If it wasn’t for this grant and the diligent work of the FCDA SAKI staff, Cleophus Ward would be released from prison soon with the real opportunity to rape another victim. It is critical that we continue this valuable work to be sure these serial rape defendants remain in custody and are unable to harm future victims.”

Paul Howard, Jr.
Fulton County District Attorney

Cleophus Ward’s indictment on August 20, 2019, and subsequent prosecution will be handled by the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office Sexual Assault Kit Initiative Unit which consists of Assistant District Attorney Julianna Peterson, Assistant District Attorney Alea Harmon, Assistant District Attorney La’Porscha Smalls, Investigator Solomon Bibbs, and Victim-Witness Advocate Sarah Cleary.

SAKI Timeline:

  • 2015: 1,500 untested sexual assault kits discovered at Grady Memorial Hospital
  • 2015: Fulton County District Attorney’s Office entered into an agreement with Grady Memorial Hospital to recover the kits.
  • 2015: Criminal Justice Coordinating Council received District Attorney of New York-Manhattan grant to fund the testing of backlogged sexual assault kits at Grady.
  • 2015: FCDA transported the kits to Georgia Bureau of Investigation for testing. Resulted in identification of rape and sexual assault suspects.
  • 2016: Georgia Legislature passes Senate Bill 304 establishing standards for handling of kits.
  • 2017: GBI notifies FCDA of CODIS match to serial offender from 2003; Deandre Shabazz
  • 2018: FCDA receives $1 million grant from US DOJ Bureau of Justice Assistance
  • March 2018: FCDA forms Sexual Assault Kit Initiative
  • June 2018: Dandre Shabazz indicted for sexually assaulting, kidnapping, robbing 11 women between 2002 and 2005.
  • August 20, 2019: 3rd indictment by FCDA SAKI: Cleophus Ward

Fulton County SAKI By the Numbers:

  • 156 CODIS matches
  • 3 Indictments: Dandre Shabazz, Taylor Spann, Cleophus Ward
  • 110 cases under investigation
  • 9 defendants already serving life sentence for another offense
  • 40 serial offenders (1 or more sexual assault cases)