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Westmoreland

Lawyers say new DNA evidence proves John Kunco innocent of New Kensington rape

Rich Cholodofsky
| Wednesday, May 16, 2018, 6:00 p.m.
John Kunco
John Kunco

Lawyers for an Allegheny County man serving 90 years in prison for raping a New Kensington woman nearly three decades ago say they have evidence that proves he is innocent.

Westmoreland County Common Pleas Judge Christopher Feliciani scheduled a May 23 hearing on a defense request to allow John Kunco to be released on bail while he appeals his 1991 conviction.

Kunco, now 52, formerly of Harrison, was convicted of rape and other offenses for the brutal sexual assault of a 55-year-old woman in her home and was sentenced to serve 45 to 90 years in prison. Prosecutors said Kunco broke into the woman's apartment, blindfolded her with her underwear, shocked her with a frayed electrical cord, then raped her and forced her to perform sexual acts.

According to court records, the woman identified Kunco by his lisp. At trial, prosecutors showed jurors photographs of a healed bite mark on the woman that experts said matched a dental imprint of Kunco's mouth.

The defense has since maintained the bite mark evidence used to convict Kunco was based on faulty science. DNA testing last year of a blanket believed to have been present during the rape found no traces of Kunco's genetic material, according to the defense. DNA evidence was not presented during Kunco's trial.

“DNA testing has now shown that Mr. Kunco is actually innocent of those charges,” wrote defense lawyers Karen Thompson of the Innocence Project in New York and Pittsburgh attorney Wendy Williams.

District Attorney John Peck said Wednesday that Kunco is not entitled to bail and was confident the rape conviction will stand.

“There was other evidence in the case that identified the defendant as committing this crime,” Peck said.

Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-830-6293 or rcholodofsky@tribweb.com.

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