DNA leads to arrest in two cold casesby Elizabeth Baier, Minnesota Public Radio
Minneapolis — The rapist pushed one woman's face onto the floor, and kicked another out of his truck when he was done attacking her.
The two cases happened years ago, and nobody was ever arrested in connection with them -- until now.
Hennepin County Sheriff's investigators used DNA to link both attacks --- one happened in Brooklyn Center in 2004 and the other in Minneapolis in 2006 --- and today they announced the arrest of a man they suspect of committing both assualts.
Fernando Bladimer Perez, 33, of Dayton, has been charged with two counts of criminal sexual conduct and two counts of kidnapping to facilitate a felony. He has been at the Hennepin County Jail, held on $300,000 bail, since Aug. 19.
"We're sending a message to the families and victims that we have expertise, we're focused on solving these crimes, and we will lock up the people who should be off our streets," Sheriff Richard Stanek said.
The first attack happened on Feb. 10, 2004 in the parking lot of the Brookdale Mall. The rapist grabbed a 23-year-old woman from behind and pulled her into the back seat of his pickup truck.
He climbed into the backseat and told her if she didn't say anything, then "nothing bad" would happen. He then sexually assaulted her before kicking her out of the car and driving off, according to a criminal complaint.
The second incident happened on Sept. 17, 2006 in Minneapolis. The rapist identified himself as Fernando, and offered the woman a job cleaning houses that he owned. While showing her one of the houses, he grabbed the woman's upper body, pushed her to the ground, and raised his fist as if he were going to hit her, before sexually assaulting her, officials said.
Investigators with the Hennepin County Cold Case Team, which was established in January with help from a $500,000 federal grant, matched DNA collected in the Minneapolis case with DNA from Brooklyn Center assault, Stanek said.
Investigators were able to identify Perez using the FBI's national DNA index system, Stanek said.
"There are a number of other cases in the pipeline, but this is the first time an offender has been matched and arrested based on the work of the cold case team," Stanek said. "This is absolutely tremendous."
Stanek said the team is now reviewing thousands of unsolved sexual assault and homicide cases going back to 1991.
Perez is scheduled to make his next court appearance on Sept. 10.