Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
More than 24 years ago a woman let her cat back into her Northeast Albuquerque apartment and left the back door slightly ajar so air could circulate. It was around 5 a.m. on July 7, 1997.
About 30 minutes later a man forced his way into her home, held her at knife point, ripped off her underwear and raped her. Afterward, she said, he forced her to shower and stole her briefcase containing her credit card and driver’s license.
On Tuesday, 2nd Judicial District Attorney Raúl Torrez announced there had been an arrest in the case.
In a news conference, Torrez said his office had hired a contractor, BODE Technology, to use forensic genealogy to track down a suspect by matching DNA collected in a rape kit to open-source data from people who had gotten their DNA tested as a way to learn more about their family trees. They narrowed in on 63-year-old Edward Gilbert Duran and investigators collected a DNA sample from a fork he threw out.
The DA’s Office said it learned the DNA was a match almost two weeks ago and Duran was arrested Tuesday. He is charged with two counts of criminal sexual penetration and was booked into the Metropolitan Detention Center. It’s unclear who his attorney will be. The statute of limitations does not apply to first-degree felonies or in rape cases where a suspect hasn’t been identified.
And Duran’s DNA has been linked to seven other rapes between 1990 and 1997, Torrez said. Duran had been convicted of criminal sexual penetration in 1979 and again in 1989 but Torrez said that was before authorities regularly collected DNA samples from felons to enter into CODIS – the national database.
“By combining technology and smart investigating, my office was able to link Duran to this crime and bring him into the light,” Torrez said. “We hope that this victim and others feel a sense of security and closure by today’s arrest and our work to link Duran to his past crime.”
This is the second case using forensic genealogy in which Torrez’s office has charged a suspect.
Angel Gurule, who raped a woman who was running in the bosque on Christmas Eve in 2015, pleaded guilty to two counts of criminal sexual penetration in the second degree in May 2020. The technique first surfaced when investigators in Northern California used it to catch the Golden State Killer, Joseph DeAngelo, in 2018. DeAngelo pleaded guilty to 13 counts of first-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison in 2020.
Woman’s rape kit untested for years
In the 1997 Albuquerque case, the offender took the woman to the bathroom after the rape, ripped off her nightgown, and told her to “wash off,” according to a criminal complaint filed in Metropolitan Court. She told detectives she stayed in the bathroom for 15 to 30 minutes because she was afraid and because she felt comforted in the shower.
When she got out the suspect was gone and the woman called 911.
She told detectives she “had the feeling that he had raped women before. ‘He was not nervous once he had literally beaten me into submission; contrary, he was assured, commanding, and knew every step. He was very smooth, and knew exactly what he would do next,'” a detective wrote in the complaint.
The woman underwent a sexual assault examination and DNA of the suspect was collected. An Albuquerque Police Department detective conducted a follow-up interview with her a couple of months later but then the case went cold. Along with thousands of others, the woman’s rape kit sat on a shelf, untested for decades.
The kit was finally tested in February 2020 and by the following August, APD’s crime lab had uploaded the DNA into CODIS and found that while it did not match any known offenders, it did match samples collected from seven other rape cases. Torrez said his staff recently talked to the woman who was raped in 1997 and told her they had a match and would file charges. He said the woman now lives out of state and prosecutors are in the process of tracking down the other seven victims as well.
One of the assaults – in 1990 – was committed while Duran was being prosecuted for the 1989 rape, Torrez said. In 1991 he was sentenced to spend six months in jail and 2½ years probation. Six other assaults were committed while Duran was on probation between 1992 and 1994, Torrez said.
Clearing backlog just the beginning
In 2016, Tim Keller – then state auditor, now Albuquerque’s mayor – announced that an audit found New Mexico had the highest number of untested rape kits per capita in the nation. About three quarters of the 5,302 kits – dating back to 1988 – were from the Albuquerque area.
In the years that followed the city received federal grants to test all the kits and they were finally completed in April. But in many ways clearing the backlog was just the beginning.
“One of the things that is clear not only from this case, but from other cases that we have initiated from the backlog is that testing the kits is just the first step,” Torrez said. “There was an extraordinary amount of investigative resources put in to identifying this suspect and gathering the necessary evidence.”
Torrez said his office has one investigator and two victim advocates dedicated to the backlog. APD has three detectives assigned full time to investigating the backlog and civilian advocates who work to contact the victims.
Connie Monahan, the executive director of SANE, which provides support and treatment to rape victims, said advocates knew there were going to be a “series of backlogs” after the kits were all tested.
“Now the backlog has moved to law enforcement, the investigation,” she said. “In time the backlog will be on the courts. There is a big peak of cases moving through the system.”
Outside team helps case move faster
Whereas the last case Torrez’s office prosecuted using forensic genealogy was done by his own staff – led by then special agent in charge Kyle Hartsock – now prosecutors are working with an outside team to move more quickly. Torrez said his office has 11 other cases with victims identified that could use the same technique.
Hartsock, now a deputy commander with APD, said sex crimes detectives worked with the DA’s Office to identify the 1997 case as one that could benefit from forensic genealogy.
“The really shining part is that the DA’s Office now has the capability to do a lot of this stuff independently from us as well,” Hartsock said. “Where our resources might be strained and tied up to do a lot of this work in the current moment, the DA’s Office is able to come in and help tie this case off at the end, which resulted in today’s arrest.”
Torrez said Duran was identified through a distant relative who did not even know who he was. He said BODE Technology mapped out the family trees and provided his office with a list of people to investigate.
“We get a list of potential suspects and then special agents in the district attorney’s office go about the business of collecting additional evidence to enable that point to point comparison,” Torrez said, referring to comparing DNA collected from a suspect to DNA in a rape kit. “Once that’s done we’re in the position to effect the arrest, which we did today.”
Duran still lives in Albuquerque – less than a mile and a half from where the woman was raped in 1997. Torrez said when he was arrested he denied assaulting anyone. “He denied involvement in this case in the charges that are related to this crime and to the others,” he said. “So I think a lot of what this is really going to come down to is the genetic probability… it is a number so astronomical that it would be virtually impossible for a different individual to have been connected to this.”