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DNA test confirms guilt in ’84 rape

Supreme Court had ordered test for Huntley Ruff

Scott Lauck//April 17, 2009//

DNA test confirms guilt in ’84 rape

Supreme Court had ordered test for Huntley Ruff

Scott Lauck//April 17, 2009//

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The Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office said Friday that a DNA test ordered by the Missouri Supreme Court last year has confirmed the convicted man’s guilt.

Huntley Ruff was convicted of raping a guest at the Phillips House Hotel in Kansas City in 1984. Ruff was a cook at the hotel.

At the hotel, the woman ordered room service. She said that when she went to place the empty tray outside her door, a man in a chef’s uniform approached her about an inconsistency in her bill, then grabbed her, put a knife to her throat and raped her in the room.

The woman identified Ruff as her assailant, but DNA from semen recovered from the scene could not conclusively be matched to Ruff’s.

A Jackson County jury convicted him of rape, sodomy, first-degree robbery and armed criminal action. He was sentenced to 160 years in prison.

Twenty years after his conviction, Ruff filed a motion for post-conviction DNA testing. Jackson County Circuit Judge Marco Roldan denied a hearing without issuing any findings.

Ruff then filed a brief with the Missouri Court of Appeals Western District, which affirmed Roldan’s ruling, also without an opinion.

Last year, he took his case to the state’s high court, where University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law Dean Ellen Suni argued on his behalf. Suni was appointed by the court to represent Ruff. She had successfully argued on behalf of Rubin Weeks in 2004, in what had been the only post-conviction DNA test case ever heard by the Supreme Court.

Suni said about 60 percent DNA tests cases confirm the person is guilty, but that means “40 percent of them don’t.” She said that while the outcome was disappointing, last June’s order from the Missouri Supreme Court established important principles that will help others in the future.

“When DNA can provide a clear answer – and it does – it’s a good thing,” Suni said.

According to the prosecutor’s office, the statistical probability that the match made to Ruff occurred by chance was one per 103.7 quadrillion people. Prosecutors intend to seek legal sanctions against Ruff for filing a frivolous motion, the release said.

Prosecutor Jim Kanatzar admitted there was little else he could do to an inmate with about 135 years left on his sentence.

However, Kanatzar said the costs of the testing and the time used by the department amount to “tens of thousands of dollars” and that his office might be able to recover some of that money from Ruff’s commissary account. He is incarcerated at the Jefferson City Correctional Center.

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