Wearing shackles and a green suicide prevention smock, Richard Knapp made his first appearance in Clark County Superior Court on Wednesday.
The 57-year-old man from Fairview, Oregon, is accused of raping and strangling Audrey Hoellein to death at her Vancouver apartment on July 17, 1994.
Knapp has been charged with first- and second-degree murder with sexual motivation. He was arrested Sunday after police conducted a traffic stop. Knapp was then transferred to Clark County Jail, where he remains on suicide watch.
Knapp’s first court appearance was initially scheduled for Wednesday morning but was pushed back to late afternoon. His defense attorney, Edward LeRoy Dunkerly, argued that Knapp should be unshackled during pre-trial hearings to avoid tainting public opinion and possible jurors.
Judge Robert A. Lewis heard arguments on the issue Wednesday and ruled that Knapp could appear at future court hearings without handcuffs. Lewis set his bail at $1 million.
Detectives cracked the decades-old case with the help of Parabon NanoLabs, a private company that uses genealogy sites to help law enforcement identify suspects. The same company and techniques were responsible for last year’s arrest of the Golden State Killer.
Investigators were able to narrow down their findings to one suspect: Richard Knapp. A tossed cigarette butt from Knapp was tested and came up as a match for evidence found at the 1994 crime scene.
An affidavit filed by the Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s office reveals Knapp is connected to previous sex crimes. Court documents show Knapp pleaded guilty to raping another Vancouver woman in 1986.
Knapp and his roommate at the time were given a ride home by the woman after drinking at a nearby party. Police say Knapp then offered to walk the woman back to her apartment but said he needed to make a stop along the way to lock up the rec room. Once inside, Knapp locked the door and sexually assaulted and raped the woman. An affidavit reads that during the assault, the victim says Knapp “had strangled her to the point of near unconsciousness.” The woman had her 14-month-old baby with her during the entire encounter.
Knapp was convicted of third-degree rape and was sentenced to 12 months in jail. Court records show he only served 60 days and was ordered to undergo an alcohol treatment program. Knapp violated the program agreement on multiple occasions but eventually completed his sentence in 1987.
Knapp was also ordered to provide detectives with a DNA sample, which was obtained but never uploaded into any database. The sample was later destroyed in 2000.
Fred Neiman with the Clark County Sheriff’s Office said a national DNA database did not exist in 1986 and it wasn’t until 2001 that the department began to collect samples from convicted sex offenders. Niemen declined to comment further on the case or Knapp’s criminal history in Clark County.
Knapp is due back in Clark County Superior Court for his arraignment on May 24.