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Man Pleads Guilty To Serial Rapes Of Four Penn State Students

A Port Matilda man pleaded guilty on Thursday in Centre County Court to the serial rapes of four Penn State students between 2010 and 2017 in State College.

Jeffrey P. Fields was arrested in July 2020 after State College detectives used DNA evidence and genetic genealogy to connect him to the crimes.

Fields, 37, pleaded guilty to 14 felonies and three misdemeanors. The charges include four counts of rape by forcible compulsion, four counts of rape by threat of forcible compulsion, four counts of sexual assault, two counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse by forcible compulsion, and three counts of simple assault.

Judge Pamela Ruest ordered a presentence investigation report but did not yet set a sentencing date.

Fields entered an open plea, meaning he has no assurance of a sentencing recommendation from the prosecution.

Deputy District Attorney Sean McGraw said his office has not yet determined what sentence the prosecution will request, but he expected to ask for a minimum of “decades” in prison.

Fields, who on Thursday spoke only to answer questions from Ruest about his understanding of the plea, has been held without bail at the Centre County Correctional Facility since his arrest.

Three of the four victims attended Thursday’s proceeding via Zoom. McGraw said he expects all four will submit victim impact statements and testify at the sentencing.

Jeffrey Fields. Photo courtesy of Centre County Correctional Facility

All four women reported being raped by an unknown male late at night outdoors. Police said DNA samples collected during rape examinations at Mount Nittany Medical Center were used to eventually identify Fields as the suspect.

The investigation began on August 22, 2010, when a 20-year-old woman reported that she was assaulted in the early morning hours in the area of Apple Alley as she walked to her apartment. After the assault, she returned home and her roommate found her “crying, soaking wet and in a highly disheveled, intoxicated condition,” with her pants slightly down and abrasions on her face and arm, according to the criminal complaint.

On January 28, 2011, a 19-year-old woman reported that after leaving a party in the Fraternity Row area, she entered a vehicle where she was struck in the face and raped by an unknown male. 

The third victim, a 20-year-old woman, reported on April 3, 2011, that she was walking to her home on South Burrowes Street in the area of Fairmount Avenue when she was approached by a man who asked if she needed help getting home. After she said no, the man dragged her behind a building to an area overgrown with bushes and trees where he raped and repeatedly hit her when she pleaded with him to stop. During the attack, the woman was rendered unconscious. When she regained consciousness, she was lying naked in the bushes and found she had lacerations on her forehead, a swollen cheek, a swollen and cut lip, and an abrasion on her chin.

On July 16, 2017, a 19-year-old woman reported she was walking home in the area of West Prospect Avenue and South Atherton Street when a man grabbed her from behind, pushed her against a wall, and raped her. She managed to escape during the assault.

DNA samples were sent to the Pennsylvania State Police lab for analysis following each assault and found to be a match in all four cases. The DNA profile also was uploaded to the FBI’s CODIS database.

In 2018, DNA samples were sent to private labs for genetic genealogy screening, with the profile being loaded into genealogical databases.

Through forensic genetic genealogical work, detectives Stephen Bosak and Nicole Eckley developed the suspect’s family tree which “was identified as having a high likelihood of including” Fields, according to the complaint.

After narrowing the search, Fields’ parents, whose only biological son together is Jeffrey Fields, provided DNA samples in June 2020 that an analyst told detectives showed they were the mother and father of the suspect with near 100% certainty.

A DNA sample from Fields, who police said was continuously employed in the State College area from the third quarter of 2010 until his arrest, was then collected in July 2020.

“This was undoubtedly the finest piece of detective work I have seen in my career to date,” McGraw said of the investigation last July when Bosak was named Centre County Law Enforcement Officer of the Year.

Bosak and Eckley used similar DNA and genealogical work that led to the arrest in October of a Mifflin County man accused of the rape and beating of a Penn State student in 1995. Scott R. Williams pleaded not guilty to those charges and a trial date has not yet been set.

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About the Author

Geoff Rushton (StateCollege.com)

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for StateCollege.com. Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.

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