The Norman Transcript

March 16, 2011

Police use familial DNA to make arrest in California assault, robbery case

By Stephen Baxter
The Norman Transcript

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — Rarely used DNA from a suspect’s family member helped authorities link a 21-year-old man to a 2008 robbery and sexual assault at a Santa Cruz coffee shop, police reported.

The arrest is only the second in the nation to use familial DNA to connect a suspect to a crime, said California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who spoke at a news conference in Santa Cruz on Tuesday to announce the arrest. The first familial DNA tests were used in the arrest of the so-called Grim Sleeper suspect, a Los Angeles man accused of 10 murders from 1985 to 2007.

On March 19, 2008, at the Kind Grind Coffee Shop near the Santa Cruz Harbor, a 24-year-old employee was preparing to open the shop when she unlocked the front door about 6 a.m., police said. A man snuck in, threatened her with a knife and sexually assaulted her, prosecutors said. He then tried to lock the woman in a walk-in refrigerator and swiped all the cash from the register and fled, said Police Chief Kevin Vogel.

On Friday, nearly three years after the crime, Elvis Lorenzo Garcia of Santa Cruz was arrested in the case on suspicion of robbery, sodomy, sexual penetration by force and false imprisonment, according to jail records. He is being held in lieu of $1 million bail, District Attorney Bob Lee said.

Police investigated and sent DNA evidence to the state Department of Justice laboratory in November 2008 to try to match it with other suspects’ DNA. The state lab is jammed with hundreds of cases, authorities said. In November 2010, DNA from one of Garcia’s relatives matched DNA taken from the coffee shop, police said.

Police quickly ruled out Garcia’s relative and kept a close watch on Garcia from November 2010 to January 2011. Police obtained arrest and search warrants for him.