Editor’s note: This story has been updated with comment from Gurule’s attorney.
Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
He was believed to be the first suspect arrested in New Mexico using a commercial genealogy service.
The case held up in court.
On Monday, Angel Gurule, 23, pleaded guilty to two counts of criminal sexual penetration in the second degree and will be sentenced to at least a decade in prison.
Gurule was arrested in January for the rape of a woman who was tackled and assaulted while jogging in the bosque on Christmas Eve afternoon in 2015.
The case went unsolved until investigators with the District Attorney’s Office uploaded the suspect’s DNA profile into a commercial database similar to ancestry.com, which allows members of the public to investigate their own heritage.
Gurule’s second cousin, twice removed, a man in his 60s who lives in California, had uploaded his DNA to GEDmatch.com. Comparing that sample to their suspect’s DNA ultimately led investigators to Gurule.
Although it was believed to be the first-of-its-kind investigation in New Mexico, the tactic has been used elsewhere.
Northern California authorities used a genealogy service to find and arrest the man referred to as the Golden State Killer, former police officer Joseph James DeAngelo, who is charged with 13 counts of murder and other crimes in connection with a series of rapes and murders in the 1970s and ’80s. DeAngelo has agreed to plead guilty in exchange for a sentence of life in prison, according to news reports.
Gurule pleaded guilty to the rape charges during a virtual hearing before 2nd Judicial District Judge Daniel Gallegos. Gurule, who is in custody, and attorneys in the case appeared by video monitor in a nearly empty courtroom.
Gurule had been facing seven counts, according to a state court website, ranging from criminal sexual penetration in the first degree to false imprisonment.
Each of the two charges he pleaded guilty to carries a maximum penalty of nine years in prison. The plea agreement calls for him to serve between 10 and 12 years in prison, followed by probation and parole.
District Attorney Raúl Torrez said he was proud his office was the first in the state to use forensic genealogy to get a conviction. And he credited the victim with her perseverance and for holding out hope as the investigative team pioneered a new tactic.
“The strength of our case made this early plea possible without subjecting the victim to the secondary trauma of recounting the assault at pre-trial witness interviews and trial,” he said in a statement. “Today’s conviction demonstrates that forensic genealogy is an important new tool in law enforcement and sends a powerful message to victims that we will use every means at our disposal to fight for them.”
Gallegos accepted Gurule’s plea during the hearing and said there will be a sentencing hearing in one to two months.
Prosecutor Lelia Hood briefly described the crime, saying the victim was jogging when she was tackled from behind by Gurule. She was overpowered before being assaulted twice during the attack. The rape happened along a trail near the Rio Grande south of Rio Bravo SW.
“Does that sound like what you’re pleading guilty to?” Gallegos asked Gurule, who acknowledged he was guilty.
Raymond Maestas, Gurule’s attorney, said he will present evidence of mitigating factors during the sentencing hearing – including testimony by two psychologists who have examined Gurule.
“Angel took responsibility today and we look forward to explaining to the judge a more complete, human side of Angel,” Maestas said. “We can never truly understand the impact of childhood trauma on anyone who sadly experiences it.”
When Gurule was 2 months old, his father killed his 2-year-old brother in Artesia. He was put into the foster care system and adopted by a family who lived in the South Valley, according to authorities.