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Convicted rapist pleads not guilty to rape charges in Poland

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A rapist who has already been convicted in Portage County is now standing trial here.

Shawn Wendling, who had been living in Hillsville in Lawrence County, Pennsylvania, was in Mahoning County Court Tuesday morning, answering to charges of rape. He pleaded not guilty to the local charges and is being held without bond.

Prosecutors say he attacked a runner on Cowden Road in Poland near the township park last September.

“This was a true stranger rape. This victim did not know this defendant in any way,” said Assistant Mahoning County Prosecutor Atty. Jennifer McLaughlin.

Local and state investigators used DNA evidence to tie Wendling to the Poland victim, as well as two others who were attacked last summer on the Berlin Bike Trail in Deerfield in Portage County.

Wendling was charged with the rape of another woman along the bike trail. He took a plea deal there before the trial started and was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Local prosecutors say they intend to seek a sentence that would run back-to-back to the time he’s serving in the Portage County case.

“We have our victim here in Mahoning County. That victim deserves some additional time for the crimes that he committed against her here in Mahoning,” McLaughlin said.

Authorities said Wendling could still face charges in Stark County in connection with similar crimes last summer, targeting victims through local parks.

When he was arrested, investigators said the violence in each attack appeared to be escalating.

“Everything that he did to our victim here is very forceable. This is no sort of an issue of, ‘Maybe there was consent’ or any of those issues,” McLaughlin said.

For now, Wendling is jailed without bond. His trial here is set for late next month.

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Mel Robbins Main Area Middle

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