A suspect in the sexual assaults of several young girls in Chandler has been arrested and police said Saturday that DNA positively links the man to the case.
Santana Batiz Aceves, 39, was booked into a Maricopa County jail in Phoenix on 25 counts of kidnapping, sexual assault and trespassing in connection with the assaults that began in June 2006, police announced at a news conference. They said the most recent attack linked to the case occurred June 8 on a 14-year-old girl.
Police had been searching for months for a man who raped four girls and attempted to assault two others in the Chandler area.
All of the victims have been girls between the ages of 12 and 15, according to authorities.
Chandler Police Chief Sherry Kiyler said Aceves is an illegal immigrant who was deported twice for drug charges in California in 1999 and 2003.
Authorities said Aceves worked as a heavy equipment operator and lived in the area of the sexual assaults for the last 18 months.
Police said all of the attacks occurred within a two-mile radius of the suspect's rented home, which is located between two junior high schools.
It was not immediately known if Aceves had legal representation yet. A person who answered the door at Aceves' home Saturday declined comment.
Kiyler said detectives working a saturation patrol Friday morning in the area of the most recent assault spotted a man who matched the description of the suspect and who was driving a white 2-door car that also matched a police description.
The man was released after being questioned, but officers later got a warrant to search his home and obtain his DNA.
He fled when they approached but was captured and the DNA obtained, Kiyler said. That DNA test came back early Saturday with a positive match for several of the sexual assaults.
"We are convinced that this suspect ... is responsible for the multiple assaults in our jurisdiction," Kiyler said. "We are relieved that our community is now a safer place."
Most of the attacks happened in the early morning hours and targeted young girls after adults in the homes had left for work.
One happened in the evening while the girl's grandparents were outside. Other attacks are possible but have not been formally attributed to the same assailant.
Police in Chandler and surrounding cities had been warning young girls and their parents about the rapist since early in 2007. Public forums were held at local schools and a reward of up to $50,000 was posted for information leading to his arrest.
Police described a careful assailant who stalked his victims and their families to identify when the young girls were most vulnerable. He would then strike quickly and apparently had his escape well planned.