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Man charged in Seattle cold-case murder from 1998

(MGN Online)

SEATTLE -- A man with a record of sexual assault convictions was charged with murder Wednesday in King County Superior Court for the 1998 death of a woman in the Central District of Seattle , according to the charging documents.

The first-degree murder charge against 56-year-old John Ray Stearns comes after the Seattle Police Department re-investigated the unsolved murder of the 33-year-old woman this year.

Stearns is currently in prison for a series of convictions from the '80s and '90s involving violent sexual assaults on women, documents state.

In one instance in 1999, Stearns reportedly attacked a woman with a box cutter at a mini-mart before attempting to rape her, according to the documents.

A detective noted in the charging documents that Stearn's assault convictions all occurred in a specific area in the Central District.

On Jan. 15, 1998, the 33-year-old woman was found lying near a bathroom with her pants pulled down at Dr. Blanche Lavizzo Park in the 2100 block of South Jackson Street, according to the documents.

An autopsy by the King County Medical Examiner revealed the woman was killed from blows to her face and head, documents state. The victim reportedly had a fractured skull and signs of suffocation.

It wasn't until February 2004 that DNA samples collected from the woman were matched to Stearn's DNA.

In 2005, detectives interviewed Stearns in prison where he denied knowing the victim or being involved in her death, documents state.

Stearns is currently being held in the Monroe Correctional Center in Snohomish County and a $2 million bail has been added with the new charge.

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