DNA links man to assault in 1986

Alphonso Varner

SUMMERVILLE — DNA evidence has linked a second suspect to a rape and kidnapping that occurred during a spree of similar crimes here in the 1980s, police said.

Officers served Alphonso Varner, 44, with warrants charging him with kidnapping and sexual assault on Monday. Varner, who is serving prison time for an unrelated crime, is accused of assaulting a woman on Dec. 12, 1986.

The development follows the arrest of another man authorities said is linked through DNA to assaults in Summerville and Dorchester County.

All told, investigators are looking into 22 cases from the 1980s, most involving women assaulted in public places, said Capt. Jon Rogers, a Summerville police detective.

"It's still a very active investigation," Rogers said Wednesday.

In the latest charges, Varner is accused of taking a woman from the Heritage Square Shopping Center, taking her to the Brownsville area and sexually assaulting her, a release says. Police also are investigating him in connection with other open cases, according to the release.

Varner received a $200,000 surety bond on Tuesday and remained in custody with the state Department of Corrections.

A state criminal background check shows he is serving a 13-year sentence for a strong-arm robbery in Dorchester County. He began his sentence in 2005 and his current projected parole date is in March 2009, according to the Corrections Department Web site.

SLED records show Varner has earlier convictions for an armed robbery in Dorchester County in 1990, possession of crack cocaine in Summerville in 1996 and a strong-arm robbery in Summerville in 1998.

The other man charged with unsolved rapes also was behind bars.

At the end of April, Summerville police and Dorchester County sheriff's investigators announced that they had filed four charges of kidnapping and four charges of first-degree criminal sexual conduct against Herman Sammie Rigby Jr., 50.

The charges relate to four women raped between March and September 1987. At least one of the women has since died, authorities said.

Rigby, formerly of Georgetown, has been in a state prison since 2002 on a charge of common law robbery, according to the Corrections Department's Web site. Rigby's criminal history dates back to 1983 and includes convictions for grand larceny, entering a bank to steal and criminal domestic violence, his record shows.

Reach Noah Haglund at 937-5550 or nhaglund@postandcourier.com.