Man acquitted of slaying woman whose body was found in Pico Rivera sentenced for rapes

A judge earlier this week handed down a prison sentence of 30 years to life to a man acquitted of murdering a woman found slain at a Pico Rivera park 15 years ago, but convicted of raping two other women several years later, officials said.
A Los Angeles Superior Court Jury convicted Shawn Lavaway Rankin, 46, of Los Angeles in May of two counts of rape, as well as one count of forced oral copulation in connection with two attacks that took place in Los Angeles in 2000 and 2001, said Deputy District Attorney Alison Meyers, who prosecuted the case.
But the jury acquitted him of the rape and fatal stabbing of 41-year-old Wyesser Cook of Los Angeles, whose body was discovered in the early morning hours of Nov. 1, 1997, at Bicentennial Park in Pico Rivera, Meyers said.
The investigations into both Cook’s slaying and the two rapes all ran cold until 2005, when DNA tied all three crimes together and provided detectives with new clues.
He had been arrested and convicted of a Los Angeles sexual battery in 2000, but at the time, a system was not in place to collect DNA samples from felons, Meyers said. Rankin fulfilled his registration requirements as a convicted sex offender following his conviction and release from prison.
In 2005, detectives announced that the same man’s DNA had been found at the scenes of the slaying and both rapes. But Rankin was not linked to the crimes.
“The case remained unsolved, essentially because Mr. Rankin’s DNA had never been taken and put into the system,” Meyers said.
Interviews with the surviving rape victims allowed LAPD sketch artist Marylin Diaz to create a composite drawing of the suspect, which Meyers described as “one of the best composite’s I’ve seen.”
In the years that followed, a detectives did collect a DNA sample from Rankin and entered it into their database, Meyers explained. Rankin was arrested when his DNA was found to match the profile of that in all three cases in September of 2007, according to officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
His trial began in April and drew to a close in May, when the jury found Rankin guilty of the sex crimes against the two surviving victims, but not guilty of raping and murdering Cook, Meyers said.
He was sentenced to consecutive terms of 15 years to life in prison for each count of rape, officials said, as well as another eight years, to be served concurrently, for the forced oral copulation charge.
In the 2001 attack, Rankin offered a woman a ride in his car, then assaulted her once she was inside, Meyers said. In the 2002 case, you gave a woman a ride home, then returned to her home later in the day to sexually assault her.
Rankin’s defense attorney Lawrence Forbes declined to comment Friday.
Meyers said the murder case was less straight-forward than the rape cases for two primary reasons.
More than one man’s DNA was found in connection with Cook’s body, and a defense witness testified that another man, who is now dead, may have been responsible for the slaying.
Meyers said she believed, “a combination of the two created in the jurors minds a reasonable doubt.”
Meyers said at his sentencing, Rankin offered an apology in court, though the victims were not present to hear it.
“I’d like to think it was sincere,” she added.

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