Investigators in Santa Fe said they've solved a 22-year-old rape case, and they're taking another hard look at a freezer full of evidence in other cold case rapes.
Dozens of violent unsolved rape crimes continue to haunt victims, and decades later, one woman is finally getting some closure. Detectives are determined she won't be the last.
"It has about 90 cases from the late '80s to early '90s in it," said Celina Westervelt, spokesperson for the Santa Fe Police Department, regarding a freezer full of evidence in cold case rapes.
The evidence has been processed before, but since the 1990s, technology has come a long way.
"We can do a lot more with a lot less. Back then, they needed a specific amount of a certain substance to be able to test it for DNA. Now they can use a couple of skin cells to test for DNA," explained Westervelt.
So far, 25 cases have been re-sent to the lab for testing by detectives who are driven by the case of Susan Laporte,
a Santa Fe rape victim from 1985.
Suspect DNA in her case is the same for Maria Padilla's
1985 case in Albuquerque; both women were raped and strangled. Padilla's body was found in the Albuquerque Bosque, while Laporte's body was found in a Santa Fe arroyo.
"Our hope was that maybe this suspect got picked up later in life, was submitted into custody, had a DNA swab done," said Westervelt.
Although there's been no hits in Laporte's case, it turns out that's exactly what happened in a case from 1991.
Suspect DNA came back with a match for 46-year-old David Garcia, who'd been arrested and released in Missouri in 2002 for felony assault.
Police said his alleged victim, now in her 60s, was shocked.
"When we called her and told her we have a hit, we have a suspect, we can solve your case, she was just over the moon, overwhelmed," said Westervelt.
Garcia's alleged victim told police what happened 22 years ago.
She said she was walking home from work near a Santa Fe park, when a man grabbed her by the neck, yanked her into a van and repeatedly raped her.
"She described him to the detective, the detective pulled up his picture out of the Missouri mugshot, and knew right away that was the suspect," said Westervelt.
Garcia was arrested last week in Missouri and is awaiting extradition for rape and kidnapping charges in Santa Fe.
Out of the 25 cases re-sent to the lab, three of them have come back with hits. Police hope to process all of the 90 cold cases by the end of the year. They're also re-testing evidence from cold murder cases.