DNA evidence is helping Mesa PD in its high-tech hunt for a sexual predator

Mesa PD has used DNA to create a sketch of a sexual abuse suspect.

Police are using a sexual abuse suspect’s DNA to piece together a blueprint of what the predator may look like. His victim is just 4 years old.

This case brought neighbors together for a community meeting back in January. Now Mesa police are asking for help again, hoping this new computer-generated composite could help lead to the predator.

A Mesa neighborhood has been living in fear since the girl was sexually assaulted in January.

EARLIER: Mesa neighborhood on edge after child's sexual assault

Police never had a good description of the predator, but technology and DNA are allowing them to develop a computer-generated image, in hopes of getting him off the streets.

It was a horrendous act. A man entered a home near Broadway Road and Mesa Drive and sexually assaulted the 4-year old girl while everyone else was sleeping.

"It's scary, scary, definitely scary, because we have lots of kids in the neighborhood,” said Natasha Rodriquez, parent of three.

That was the feeling just days after the attack.

"Very sad with it being a young child," said Shirley Mortensen, another concerned community member.

Catching the predator is Mesa PD’s top priority, but so far, detectives haven’t been able identify the perpetrator.

“We’ve exhausted all of our leads,” said Det. Nik Rasheta of the Mesa Police Department.

So how did detectives come up with the new image?

“DNA evidence,” he said.

For the first time, the department used advanced technology called “DNA phenotyping.”

“We submitted a sample of that DNA,” said Rasheta.

With that DNA sample, the company gets a genetic profile and predictions determine the look of the suspect.

“Body mass index was determined as average,” he said. “We chose the year, the age to be 25, because the range that the witness gave was 18 to 30.”

And 45 days later, they came back with this.

“It gives you a snapshot of what the scientific approximation of appearance is based on that DNA,” said Rasheta.

The DNA provides a blueprint of the suspect, down to race.

“It shows that this person’s ancestry is Latino with some African admixture,” he said.

The new image looks quite a bit different than the composite sketch a witness helped produce in January. Detectives say the new image may not be identical to the suspect.

“Characteristics like scars, the way hair is, facial hair, all of that can be slightly different,” said Rasheta.

But they’re using science to hopefully bring peace and calm back to the streets of Mesa.

“We hope it helps somebody out there lead us to somebody we can investigate further,” he said.

Silent Witness is now offering a $5,000 reward for anyone who comes forward with information that leads to an arrest. You can remain anonymous – just call 480-WITNESS (948-6377).

© 2017 KPNX-TV


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