ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – His rape cases went nowhere in court for years, but Friday, an accused “serial rapist” finally faced a judge.
Eli Kronenanker’s cases were the subject of a KRQE News 13 Special Assignment earlier this year.
Now, more than two years after a young woman came forward saying Kronenanker, a man she met online, raped her in 2015, he finally faced a judge for charges in that case.
Bernalillo County District Court Judge Stan Whitaker asked the state’s Deputy District Attorney, Leila “Lee” Hood, why the state is just now prosecuting the case.
“It’s complicated,” Hood, replied. “As you know there is a backlog of sexual assault cases in the District Attorney’s Office.”
She said since District Attorney Raúl Torrez took office in January, he’s been combing through that backlog, attempting to move forward with cases that should have been prosecuted.
Also discussed Friday in court was a 2013 rape case against Kronanker, which he’s once again facing charges for.
In 2013, Kronenanker was accused of raping a teen he lured through texting, Amanda Bryand, who shared her story with KRQE News 13 earlier this year.
“I’m more than wililng to fight for justice, but if that can’t happen on my case, I would really like for it to happen in this other victim’s case,” Amanda told KRQE News 13 back in May.
At the time, Torrez learned crucial evidence in Amanda’s case was destroyed under the previous District Attorney’s administration.
Torrez said because of that, he couldn’t prosecute Amanda’s case.
A second felony rape charge against Kronenanker from 2015 was also at a standstill. The DA’s Office is now moving forward with that case.
“We are dedicated to digging through our backlog,” Torrez told News 13 on Friday. “Our focus now is on preparing for trial, getting ready for that, making the best and strongest presentation that we can to the jury,” Torrez added.
Another development took place on Friday.
To Amanda’s surprise, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas’ Office filed felony rape charges in Amanda’s 2013 case, and issued a warrant for Kronenanker’s arrest.
Kronenanker was arrested Thursday night.
“We’ve been investigating since 2017, and even though evidence was destroyed, we believe there was enough evidence to move forward,” Balderas said Friday.
According to an arrest warrant affidavit, a Special Agent with the Attorney General’s Office took another look at Amanda’s case, and found “there is still enough DNA extract for another test.”
“There will always be obstacles in bringing these type of cases, but for us and our unit it’s so important to stand behind survivors and their powerful voice,” Balderas told KRQE News 13.
Torrez said he’s thrilled the AG took on Amanda’s case.
“It’s our hope that the involvement of the Attorney General’s Office which wasn’t involved in the original handling and prosecution of that case, that they will have some luck in preserving as much evidence as they can,” Torrez explained.
Kronenanker appeared before Judge Whitaker Friday morning for a preventative detention motion hearing in the 2015 case.
For the first time in years, Amanda saw her accused attacker in the courtroom.
“Excited, scared, nervous. I have a lot of emotions running through me,” Amanda told KRQE News 13.
Attorney Hood argued on behalf of the state that Kronenanker should stay behind bars pending trial.
“We should preventatively detain people that are violent and quite frankly criminally sexually assaulting women in our community,” Hood told the Judge.
Kronanker’s attorney pointed out he’s been out of custody since the 2015 allegations, and hasn’t racked up any new charges.
“The state has had this DNA testing since 2016 but did not bother to indict this case until last month,” said Kronenanker’s attorney Molly Schmidt-Nowara, referring to DNA test results in the 2015 case.
“The very basic premise of the state’s argument is undercut by its own actions,” Schmidt-Nowara added.
When Judge Whitaker asked the state if any other allegations have come forward since 2015, Hood responded, “I am not aware of any but I can tell you judge that only about 16 percent of all rapes are actually reported to police.”
Ultimately, Judge Whitaker said the state did not meet its burden of proof under the rule that there are no conditions the court can set in place to reasonably protect the community.
Judge Whitaker denied the motion for preventative detention, and placed Kronenanker on strict house arrest with GPS monitoring.
Kronenanker was released to pretrial services on intensive supervision. If conditions of release are violated, Judge Whitaker said the defendant will be remanded into custody.
The court also ruled Kronenanker will not be able to go farther than a mile from his home without authorization from the court.
Although it’s been years since both victims came forward, Torrez and Balderas hope to seek justice for each case.
“Fom our perspective the most important thing is trying to get justice for both victims,” said Torrez.
Amanda explained she’s cautiously optimistic at this point.
“‘I’ve been let down by a lot of people,” Amanda said after Friday’s hearing. “I can have faith that something’s going to happen but I’m not going to expect anything.”
For now, the 34-year-old will have to stay in jail for a little while longer though. On Friday, the Attorney General’s Office also filed a motion to try and keep Kronenanker behind bars until trial in Amanda’s case.
A judge is expected to decide on that next week.
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