Suspected rapist also alleged escapist | NevadaAppeal.com

Suspected rapist also alleged escapist

by F.T. Norton
Appeal Staff Writer

A Carson City man arrested this week in connection with nearly a dozen child rapes in Canada 28 years ago had escaped from two psychiatric hospitals in both the U.S. and Canada, an official said Thursday.

Wilbur James Ventling, also known as John James Stewart, was arrested at his August Drive home at about 1 p.m. Tuesday on a U.S. warrant brought about by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the U.S. Marshal Service.

The warrant charges Ventling with the May 1979 rape of a 9-year-old girl in Vernon, British Columbia, Canada. His arrest Tuesday came about after Canadian police opened the cold case in 2003 and the DNA matched Ventling, said Deputy U.S. Marshal Brad Albro.

According to Albro, Ventling is also suspected in 10 similar offenses against victims ranging in age from 5-13 years old in Calgary, Alberta, Canada between July 1978 and July 1979.

Then using the name of Stewart, Ventling was arrested in connection with the rapes and while being evaluated at an Alberta, Canada psychiatric hospital in September 1979, he escaped, according to a news release.

In the course of the 1979 escape investigation, police learned that the previous year their suspect had escaped from a Colorado psychiatric hospital under the name of Ventling, where he was sentenced in connection with a sexual assault conviction there. It’s unclear if Ventling has a warrant in relation to the Colorado escape, said Albro.

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Fingerprints taken in 1979 allegedly confirmed that Ventling and Stewart were the same person.

In October 1979, Ventling was arrested in Las Vegas on charges of kidnapping, lewdness with a minor under 14 years and attempted sexual assault.

He was convicted and sentenced to 40 years in prison, but due to a successful appeal he was released in 1997.

He has lived in Carson City since then and the only contact police have had with him was when he registered as a sex offender – first at an address on Green Court and then at the home on August Drive – and last Halloween when Carson City detectives spoke to him after hearing he had put up Halloween decorations, according to Sheriff’s Department records.

Albro said just over a month ago, Canadian authorities contacted the U.S. Marshals to find out about arresting Ventling.

That it’s all said and done now is a shock, he said.

“With respect to international cases, this was lightning speed,” said Albro.

A neighbor of Ventling’s on August Drive who spoke to a Canadian newspaper on a condition of anonymity said Ventling went by the name of “Willie” and worked as a hair dresser for an Alzheimer’s unit in Reno.

He also traveled house to house to style hair, operated a leather-working business out of his home and traded items on eBay, news reports indicate.

Ventling is being held in the Washoe County Jail without bail on the charge of Fugitive from a Foreign Country to the United States. Extradition proceedings are pending for his removal to Canada to face charges of rape and causing bodily harm with intent to wound. He will appear in court on Dec. 11.

• Contact reporter F.T. Norton at ftnorton@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1213.

CASE LAID OUT

The details of the case against Wilbur James Ventling, 62, are laid out in an affidavit for an arrest warrant filed on Sept. 26 in U.S. District Court in Reno.

On May 27, 1979, a 9-year-old girl was “lured” by a stranger into some woods in Vernon, British Columbia, Canada where she was brutally raped.

In 2003, a rookie investigator with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police was handed the cold case and submitted the girl’s clothing and blood found at the scene for DNA testing.

In January 2005, a Canadian DNA lab worker submitted the DNA profile recovered from the items to the International Police and a month later a Reno criminalist discovered the DNA matched the convicted sex offender living in Carson City.

On Tuesday, 28 years after his alleged escape, Ventling was arrested.