Serial rapist sentenced after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting 5 young women in Detroit

DNA from rape kits linked cases together, helped ID suspect

A serial rapist will serve between 25 to 50 years in prison after pleading guilty to rape, kidnapping and armed robbery charges in Detroit. Lionel Jarvon Wells, 43, of Detroit, pled guilty to raping five young women ranging in age from 13 to 19 years old. The sexual assaults happened between 2007 and 2014.

DETROIT – A serial rapist will serve between 25 to 50 years in prison after pleading guilty to rape, kidnapping and armed robbery charges in Detroit.

Lionel Jarvon Wells, 43, of Detroit, pled guilty to raping five young women ranging in age from 13 to 19 years old. The sexual assaults happened between 2007 and 2014.

In many of the cases, Wells pushed an object against the survivor’s back and walked them to a secluded area before assaulting them. He often told them to close their eyes and count to 100 as he fled the scene.

Wells was arrested on rape charges on July 26, 2021. He pled guilty on Aug. 1 of this year. The cases were prosecuted by the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office Sexual Assault Kit Task Force.

In each case, the sexual assault kits were uploaded into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), which then linked the cases together. In 2019, DNA was submitted to Parabon Nanolabs for DNA and genetic genealogy analysis.

A list of related male suspects was created using the DNA. One of the suspects was Wells. Police obtained a search warrant for a swab of Wells’ DNA and submitted it for comparison through the Michigan State Police Crime Lab. That DNA swab was confirmed to match all five of the sexual assault kits. Wells was arrested on July 26, 2021.

Wells is required to register as a sex offender. He is not allowed to have contact with the survivors and if released from prison he will be monitored electronically.

Read: How DNA helped investigators identify a Michigan woman and her killer in a 1988 cold case

What we know about the sexual assault cases

January 29, 2007

A 13-year-old girl was walking to school at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 29, 2007, when Wells walked up to her and asked her about the time.

She continued to walk away from him, he approached her from behind and pushed an object into her back. He forced her into a garage of a vacant home and sexually assaulted her.

He went through her backpack, pulled items out of it, and then fled on foot. A sexual assault kit was submitted to the crime lab and the then unknown male DNA profile was loaded into CODIS.

Wells pled guilty to three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and one count of kidnapping in this case.

February 7, 2007

A 17-year-old girl was walking on the west side of Detroit at 9 p.m. on Feb. 7, 2007, when she was approached by Wells, who asked her for the time and pushed an object into her back.

Police said she was forced to walk behind a garage where she was sexually assaulted and robbed. She was told to count to 100 as Wells fled from the scene.

A sexual assault kit was submitted to the crime lab and the then unknown male DNA profile was loaded into CODIS. Wells pled guilty to one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct in this case.

December 15, 2008

A 17-year-old girl was walking at 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 15, 2008, on the west side of Detroit when Wells drove up in a car and asked for her phone number.

He exited his car and began to walk and talk to her. He grabbed her backpack, pushed something into her back and told her to keep walking.

He threatened her, telling her not to run or scream and took her behind a shed where he sexually assaulted her. He told her to close her eyes and count to 100. He then fled on foot and returned to his car.

A sexual assault kit was submitted to the crime lab and the then unknown male DNA profile was loaded into CODIS. Wells pled guilty to three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and one count of kidnapping in this case.

March 3, 2011

A 19-year-old girl was walking near her home at 9:30 p.m. on March 3, 2011, in Detroit when Wells approached her and put what she felt was a gun to her back. He ordered her to walk to a house with a detached garage.

He told her he would shoot her if she ran or screamed. He sexually assaulted her by the garage. He told her to count to 100 and took her bag before fleeing on foot.

A sexual assault kit was submitted to the crime lab and the then unknown male DNA profile was loaded into CODIS. Wells pled guilty to three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, one count of kidnapping and one count of armed robbery.

October 24, 2014

A 17-year-old girl was walking home from work at 10:15 p.m. on Oct. 24, 2014, on the east side of Detroit when she was approached by Wells.

He passed her and asked for her phone number. He then pulled out a handgun and ordered her to go into a field behind a post office. He robbed and sexually assaulted her.

He pointed the gun at her head and ordered her to get into the bushes and count to 100 as he fled.

A sexual assault kit was submitted to the crime lab and the then unknown male DNA profile was loaded into CODIS. Wells pled guilty to two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, one count of kidnapping and one count of armed robbery.


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Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.