Investigators trace genealogy to 1700s to identify suspect in Oakland County, Penn State golf course rapes

Two sexual assaults on golf courses in Oakland County and Penn State University's campus have been solved nearly 25 years later after digging into genealogy records led investigators to three potential suspects, authorities say.

Kurt Alan Rillema, 51, a businessman from West Bloomfield Township, was charged with first-degree and second-degree criminal sexual conduct charges Tuesday.

According to the Oakland County Sheriff's Office, he allegedly sexually assaulted two victims in 1999 and 2000.

 Kurt Alan Rillema

The first rape happened in September 1999 at Twin Lakes Golf Club in Oakland Township. The 22-year-old victim reported that she was working at a food stand on the course when a man came through the back employee door, demanded she take off her clothes, and then sexually assaulted her. 

Deputies were able to obtain DNA evidence from the crime but could not identify a suspect. The DNA evidence was entered into a national DNA database.

The second assault happened in July 2000 when a 19-year-old woman who was jogging at a Penn State golf course was approached by a man with a knife and assaulted. DNA evidence was taken.

The DNA database matched the samples in 2004, authorities said, but they still did not have a suspect. 

Eventually, the evidence from the Penn State case was destroyed after a period of time as permitted under state law. The evidence in the Oakland County case was preserved, though.

In July 2021, the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office and Penn State police both began to look for new ways to identify a suspect, and they sent evidence from the Oakland County case to Parabon
Nanolabs for genetic genealogy testing.

The lab traced the genealogy as far back as the 1700s, to narrow down the list of suspects to possibly one of three brothers.

Through their investigation, they learned it was Rillema, and started surveilling him. Authorities said DNA from a coffee cup was used to confirm that Rillema was the man they were looking for.

Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said Rillema has no criminal history and wasn't even on investigators' radar until the lab did some digging.

Rillema was denied bond in Michigan and will soon be extricated to Pennsylvania, where he faces similar charges.