Michigan Man Charged In 2000 Rape Of Penn State Student

Nearly 23 years following the report of a 19-year-old woman being raped at knifepoint at the Penn State Blue Golf Course, an arrest was made in Michigan Monday night.

Kurt A. Rillema, 51, was charged with felony counts of rape, sexual assault, and aggravated indecent assault, and misdemeanor counts of indecent assault, unlawful restraint, simple assault, and recklessly endangering another person.

Rillema is currently facing charges in both Centre County and Oakland County, Michigan, for a similar crime in September 1999 at the Twin Lakes Golf Course, a year prior to the rape at the Blue Course. DNA evidence linked the defendant to both crimes, according to legal documents.

The rape at the Blue Course took place on July 27, 2000, after the 19-year-old defendant reported she encountered a thin, white male, who asked her for a Band-Aid and directions. When the victim informed the defendant that she couldn’t be of help, Rilemma allegedly held a knife to her throat from behind and dragged the 19-year-old to an isolated, wooded area.

He proceeded to strike her in the stomach and conduct sexual intercourse without any form of consent, per the affidavit. Shortly after, the assailant fled the scene.

The victim was treated at the Centre Community Hospital (now Mount Nittany Medical Center), where a rape kit was used to collect forensic evidence. During the evaluation, physical and biological data were collected as evidence, per court documents.

The analysis from the evaluation showed foreign DNA from sperm samples found in the victim’s genital area and undergarments, however, no DNA profile was located at the time of the investigation.

In 2004, the Penn State Police Department was notified of a match to the unidentified DNA profile, correlating with a similar incident in Michigan a year prior. According to the affidavit, the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) database comparisons were unsuccessful in identifying the perpetrator.

In an attempt to preserve the statute of limitations, former Penn State detective Ryan Olson created a criminal complaint in 2011 against a “John Doe,” who had a matching DNA profile.

In July 2021, the investigation was reopened by Penn State Police detective Nick Sproveri, after realizing that genetic genealogy processes could potentially lead to identifying the suspect. Sproveri contacted Oakland County Sheriff’s Office detective sergeant Eric Tremonti, who agreed to continue the investigation on both the Penn State and Michigan incidents.

The following year, Tremonti submitted the DNA evidence from the Michigan case to the Michigan State Police Forensics Laboratory. After testing, forensics narrowed down the suspects to three brothers, one of whom was Rillema.

After thoroughly investigating each brother, Sproveri and Tremonti concluded that Kurt Rillema was most likely the assailant, based on his age and the physical attributes described by the victim in 2000.

Upon further investigation, the investigators found that Rillema resided nearby the Twin Lakes Golf Course at the time of the 1999 Michigan rape and learned that Rillema was visiting one of his brothers, who was enrolled at Penn State at the time of the Blue Course rape.

After keeping Rillema under surveillance, Tremonti obtained a discarded coffee cup containing the suspect’s DNA and submitted the “pseudo sample” to the Michigan State Police Forensic Laboratory for testing, according to court documents.

On March 20, 2023, the sample was tested against the DNA sample developed from the semen found in the victim’s genitals, resulting in an exact match to both rape kits. Rillema was then identified as “John Doe” from Olson’s criminal complaint in 2011, which led to his arrest on Monday, April 17. 

Rillema is being held without bond at the Oakland County Jail.

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About the Author

Evan Halfen

Evan Halfen is a junior broadcast journalism major from Newark, DE, and is one of Onward State's associate editors. Evan loves all things Penn State, tailgating, being loud, just about any beach, and his puppies, Butterscotch and Wentzy. You can direct all your tips, roasts, and jokes to his Instagram: @evan.halfen or email: [email protected]

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