Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes on Friday announced the arrest of a 53-year old Highland man suspected of the 1995 kidnapping and rape of a 9-year-old girl in Lake Forest and 1998 rape of a 31-year-old woman in Mission Viejo.
Kevin Konther, who lived in the area at the time of the attacks, was arrested at his home in Highland on Thursday, Jan. 10, on suspicion of kidnapping and raping the two Orange County victims. A news conference to announce the arrest was held Jan. 11 at OCSD headquarters.
Konther was booked into Orange County Jail for two counts of felony rape, oral copulation with a person under 14, lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14, and aggravated sexual assault. He is being held on $1 million bail and likely will be arraigned Monday, Jan. 14, Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said.
“This speaks to the dedication of our investigators who doggedly pursued this case for more than 20 years to bring justice to the victims,” Barnes said. “We must not lose sight of the victims. They have lived for 23 and 20 years, respectively, with no answers.”
On Oct. 21, 1995, the 9-year-old girl was walking home from a store in Lake Forest at 6:40 p.m. when a man grabbed her and pulled her into the wooded area in Serrano Creek Park, where he raped and then released the girl.
The girl ran home to report the sexual assault to her parents, who immediately called the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
An exhaustive search was launched, Barnes said, but the suspect was not located.
DNA collected during a sexual assault exam did not match anyone in the existing database. The girl was able to provide details to investigators to create a sketch of the suspect.
The second kidnapping and rape occurred at 11:30 a.m. on June 2, 1998, when the 31-year-old woman was jogging on a trail near El Toro Road and Marguerite Parkway in Mission Viejo.
The woman was grabbed from behind, pulled into the bushes, and raped.
The victim got help from a passerby who called the Sheriff’s Department, but the suspect was not located.
The suspect’s DNA was collected during a sexual assault exam, and the DNA was matched to the suspect from the 1995 rape.
Despite having the suspect’s DNA from both attacks, all investigative leads ran cold.
In August 2018, Orange County Sheriff’s Department investigators, working with the FBI’s Investigative Genealogy Team, used techniques similar to methods used to catch the Golden State Killer.
Surprisingly, the genealogy led to two people: identical twin brothers who share identical DNA.
Based on probable cause, investigators arrested both brothers before determining Konther was the lone suspect.
Science using DNA and genealogy can never replace “good old-fashioned detective work,” Spitzer said, but it does provide “amazing leads.”
Barnes is a former patrol deputy in Lake Forest who also served as that city’s chief of police services.
“These crimes, having been there during this time, were very, very impactful (to) the residents of Lake Forest and Mission Viejo,” the sheriff said. “It traumatized the community. Cases like these, especially when they are unsolved, never leave us, and they never leave the victims.”
Both victims have been notified of the arrest, he said.
Despite these cases occurring more than 20 years ago, investigators are asking the public who may have information related to these cases to call Orange County Crime Stoppers at 1-855-TIP-OCCS or occrimestoppers.org.