A 45-year-old Montebello man was arrested on suspicion of kidnapping and raping a 6-year-old girl in June 2012 after DNA collected from the scene was matched with the suspect’s female relative convicted in Orange County, authorities said.
Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said it’s the first case in Orange County history in which female DNA was matched with a male suspect and only the second in the state. The case justifies the continued operation of the County’s DNA Database, which is administered by the OC Crime Lab.
“If the Orange County District Attorney’s Office did not have the local DNA database or we did not have the ability … to submit this sample to the state database, (the case of) a 6-year-old who was brutally kidnapped and sexually molested on the streets of Orange County would arguably continue to remain unsolved today,” Spitzer said.
Francisco Javier Lopez faces 12 felony counts, including kidnapping to commit a sex offense, oral copulation of a child under the age of 11, sexual penetration of a child under the age of 11, sexual intercourse with a child under the age of 11, forcible lewd and lascivious act with a child under the age of 14, and dissuading a witness.
If convicted on all charges, Lopez faces life without the possibility of parole. He is currently in custody at the Theo Lacy Facility in Orange.
Santa Ana Police Chief David Valentin said investigators don’t have evidence linking Lopez to any other sex crimes but they’re looking into that possibility.
On July 15, 2012, the 6-year-old girl was kidnapped from the 1400 block of South Townsend Street in broad daylight. Lopez is accused of transporting the girl to an unidentified location where he brutally assaulted her before returning her to the neighborhood the same day,
“This is a horrific crime for our community and the entire community was on high alert,” Valentin said.
Although the suspect’s vehicle was caught on a security camera, investigators had very limited leads in the case. DNA evidence collected from the girl did not produce any hits on the local or the state’s Combined DNA Index System.
Santa Ana police requested the California Department of Justice Bureau for Forensic Services to analyze the DNA evidence, in this case on an annual basis, until a hit finally came in September 2019.
The state was unable to match female familial DNA when Lopez’s female relative was convicted in 2014. Elissa Mayo, an assistant bureau director for the Department of Justice, said the industry standard at that time was to match male suspects with male familial DNA.
Last year, new technology allowed the Department of Justice to analyze female familial DNA in the state DNA database. The database has produced 90,000 investigative leads to law enforcement agencies in California other states.
“When certain crimes go unsolved, we do want to leverage our resources to assist you and all the local agencies in California to make the most of the evidence that they have,” Mayo said.
Spitzer said the DNA evidence allowed Santa Ana police to conduct “good old-fashion police work” once they identified Lopez as a suspect. Santa Ana PD detectives tracked Lopez in Montebello and collected his DNA evidence off items he left in public spaces, authorities said.
“When you just think about a 6-year-old who is kidnapped off the street, it just boggles the mind and it disturbed the community for many years,” Spitzer said.