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Molester Convicted of Killing Girl in '92

DNA evidence links Dean Eric Dunlap to the kidnapping and slaying of a San Bernardino girl.

October 26, 2005|Lance Pugmire | Times Staff Writer

Convicted molester Dean Eric Dunlap was found guilty Tuesday of the kidnapping and murder of a 9-year-old San Bernardino girl whose slaying went unsolved for seven years.

Sandra Astorga disappeared while she walked to San Bernardino's Roosevelt Elementary School in January 1992. Weeks later, a hiker found her body covered by a bedspread and oily tarp in a field near Devore.

Police could not connect anyone to her murder until 1999, when the California Department of Justice reported that semen left on Sandra's underwear, T-shirt and shorts was linked to DNA in a blood sample that Dunlap, 47, had provided in 1996, when he was paroled after he served a prison sentence for a sexual assault.

A San Bernardino County jury on Tuesday convicted Dunlap of first-degree murder, kidnapping, forcible rape and committing a forcible lewd act upon a child, along with three special circumstances that leave him eligible for the death penalty.

Dunlap showed little emotion when the verdict was read.

Dunlap's attorney, Teresa Snodgrass, had asked jurors to consider other possibilities about how Sandra was killed, but prosecutor Cheryl Kersey said the DNA results were damning evidence.

"The jury made the right decision," Kersey said. Snodgrass had no comment.

The same jury will return Nov. 8 to determine whether Dunlap deserves the death penalty.

Kersey will call Sandra's mother, father and sister to testify at the penalty phase. A woman who was sexually assaulted by Dunlap as a child is also expected to testify.

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