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DNA Leads to Arrest in Santa Ana Girl's Rape

August 02, 2002|DAVID HALDANE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

DNA evidence left at the scene of the kidnapping and rape of a Santa Ana girl two years ago has led prosecutors to charge a Northern California man with the crimes.

Mario Antonio Hernandez, 44, a migrant farm worker from Redwood City, was charged Thursday with kidnap, rape, oral copulation and child molestation in the attack on the 9-year-old girl, who was abducted as she rode her bicycle in front of her home on April 22, 2000.

According to authorities, Hernandez used a ruse to approach the girl and took her to a construction site three blocks away, where he attacked her and then fled. If convicted on all counts, prosecutors say, he could face life in prison.

"This is an excellent use of our state DNA database," said Camille Hill, the Orange County deputy district attorney handling the case. "It's one of the first instances of linking crimes and then finding the perpetrator." Based on the DNA evidence, Hill said, investigators linked the Santa Ana rape case to at least five similar ones in Northern California between March 19, 2000, and April 7, 2002--two of them in Redwood City.

But they weren't able to identify the perpetrator, she said, until after an arrest this year in one of the Redwood City cases, allowing forensic scientists to draw the suspect's blood. A state Department of Justice scientist matched Hernandez's DNA profile to those found in all the other cases, including the Orange County rape.

Hill said she didn't know in what order the cases would be prosecuted, or when Hernandez would be brought to Orange County for trial.

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