A man accused of raping a woman as she got into her car in an Albuquerque parking lot more than a decade ago has been arrested.

It took this long, only because the DNA collected from the victim was never tested by Albuquerque police until last year as part of the Mayor Tim Keller’s initiative to test more than 5,000 backlogged rape kits.

In June 2006, APD was called to a strip mall at Wyoming and Menaul after a woman was forced into her car, taken behind the business and raped. The woman was in from out of town with her husband for a pool tournament at the Billiard Palace. 

A SANE exam was done and the DNA was collected. The victim says she never saw her attacker’s face during the assault.

Then 26-year-old Erik Lea was a person of interest in the case after an employee at the now-closed strip club next door reported Lea’s creepy behavior with the strippers.

However, the victim couldn’t identify her attacker in a photo lineup. The case went cold as the rape kit went untested, until 2018.

Director of Volunteer Services at the Rape Crisis Center of Central New Mexico, April McClellan, is working alongside the city to clear the thousands of untested kits like this one.

“Because of the testing of the backlog and getting into these kits and getting these CODIS comparisons, we actually had a lot of success with some very dangerous individuals and getting them matched up and pursuing prosecution against them,” McClellan said.

KRQE News 13 showed her the facts of the Billiard Palace case.

“The thing about sexual violence is that the individuals who fall under the serial category, they really do have sort of a modus operandi,” McClellan said. “They really do have a preference and they’ll target their victim based on those preferences.”

Court records show Erik Lea was charged with criminal sexual contact and kidnapping in 2008, just two years after the Billiard Palace attack.

While the details of this other case are unclear, the District Attorney’s office said Thursday that Lea’s DNA was collected during that investigation. 

So, when the Billiard Palace DNA was finally tested in 2018, it matched Lea’s 2008 sample. Meaning, this man could have been behind bars a decade ago.

“If that was the particular bar he hangs out, there’s always a chance that there are probably more victims,” McClellan said.

McClellan calls this a success story proving the importance of finally testing these rape kits after years— even decades, for some.

Lea was arrested Wednesday afternoon and booked into the Santa Fe County jail. On Lea’s Facebook page, he says he works in construction and lives in Edgewood.