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Salt Lake City man charged with sexual assault, attempted murder of homeless woman

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Posted at 3:27 PM, Apr 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-29 23:05:53-04

SALT LAKE CITY — A man has been charged with sexually assaulting a woman, stabbing her multiple times, then leaving her naked in a Salt Lake City alley last week.

On the morning of April 21, a woman was found naked and unconscious lying in an alley near 280 East Hampton Avenue (approximately 1100 South). Police said there was blood all over the ground at the scene, including a trail of blood leading to a blanket and a pile of clothing. A car with no license plates was also in the alley, which had blood on the inside and outside.

Police tracked the vehicle to a local dealership, where they learned it was recently sold to 22-year-old Dontel Nako Cowans. A bloody fingerprint on the car was also traced to the same suspect.

Police served a search warrant on Cowans' home, located a few blocks from the crime scene. There, they found the keys and temporary vehicle registration for the car in the alley. There was also a pair of work boots, which police said had blood on them and tread that matched a bloody footprint left at the scene.

Cowans was arrested later that same day, and in an interview with police, said he parked his car in the alley because of "tweakers" and had removed the registration so nobody would know it was his. He claimed he parked it there the night before around 8:45 p.m., walked home, and hadn't returned to it. He claimed he didn't know how the blood got on his car.

The victim, later identified as a 48-year-old woman who was experiencing homelessness, was initially reported to be in critical but stable condition. However, as of Thursday when charges were filed, she was close to losing her life. Charging documents say she is still unconscious, intubated, has "some brain activity," but will die if medical support is removed. Her "numerous" injuries include stab wounds on her face, and an injury to one of her eyes that will make it unusable if she survives.

No exact motive for the alleged crime has been determined, but police say Cowans "has an issue with homeless people and does not like them." He has been held without bail since his arrest.

Cowans was charged Thursday with attempted murder and aggravated sexual assault, both 1st-degree felonies, as well as two 2nd-degree felony counts of "mayhem" and one 2nd-degree felony charge of obstructing justice.