Case cold again: Charges dismissed against man accused of raping, killing Vancouver woman

Published: Nov. 30, 2022 at 9:58 PM PST
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - A cold case that investigators thought was solved after 25 years, has gone cold once again. Wednesday a judge dismissed the case accusing a man of raping and murdering a Vancouver woman in 1994.

FOX 12 spoke with the family of Audrey Hoellein who said they’re still healing from the tragic loss of a loved one.

“She was just a young, loving mom trying to be the best she could be for her little boy,” the victim’s family said.

They said they feel blindsided by Wednesday’s turn of events.

“We absolutely did not see this coming,” the victim’s family said.

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The family said they didn’t want to be identified due to safety concerns, but did speak with FOX 12 over the phone. They provided reaction after the prosecution asked the court to dismiss the charges against the suspect accused of murder. A judge granted that motion officially making Richard Knapp a free man.

“This has been a wound for a long time and they just completely ripped the bandage off and you can’t even imagine the pain the family is suffering,” the victim’s family said.

According to court documents, in 2019, then 57-year-old Knapp was charged with murder and arrested. He had spent the past few years in Clark County Jail.

That break in the case came when investigators found a match in DNA from a cigarette allegedly linking Knapp to the 1994 rape and murder of Hoellein. It was a case that had previously gone cold for more than two decades.

Now in court documents, the prosecution said “the state does not believe it can present sufficient admissible evidence to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.”

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The family said Wednesday’s dismissal of the case against the alleged suspect is disappointing.

“We feel completely let down in the fact there was evidence to convict this guy and they just let him walk out on the streets,” the victim’s family said.

They said they’re still hopeful they’ll one day get justice for Audrey.

“Convincing the prosecution to take another look at the case and move forward with the evidence that they have, which is DNA evidence,” the victim’s family said.

Jack Green, a defense attorney for Knapp, said the defense team, which includes Shon Bogar, successfully convinced the prosecution that their “likelihood of prevailing a trial was extraordinarily low.”

“That’s based primarily on the fact that a person of interest back in 1994 changed their story when we deposed him at the end of October of this year,” Green said. “It really showed the police may have focused too much on their genealogical DNA work.”

Green said Knapp is feeling “overwhelmed” and said, “We are absolutely convinced he did not commit. He was basically taken out of society and held, and now he’s released, and he has to start putting the pieces back together.”