New Jersey man sentenced to prison for 1997 sexual assault

A New Jersey man was sentenced to eight years in prison after DNA connected him to a sexual assault that happened 25 years ago.

Burlington County Prosecutor LaChia L. Bradshaw announced on Wednesday that Rodolfo Vasquez pled guilty in June 2022 to first-degree aggravated assault and must serve 85% of the eight-year sentence before becoming eligible for parole.

A New Jersey man was sentenced to eight years in prison after DNA connected him to a sexual assault that happened 25 years ago.
(Burlington County Prosecutor)

When Vasquez entered his plea, he told the court that he went into a home in June 1997 without authorization and sexually assaulted a woman who was there by herself, Bradshaw said in a press release on Wednesday. While the victim was not identified, the prosecutor said she attempted to defend herself several times and was struck multiple times by Vasquez, ultimately resulting in permanent vision loss in one eye.

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The investigation into the incident began in June 1997 after officers with the Mount Laurel Police Department met with the victim. During the meeting, the release said, the victim said the assault happened after she heard a noise and when to go check it out.

The victim then encountered a man in the bedroom doorway, who then grabbed her and began hitting her in the head, sexually assaulted her and fled, she told police.

Pipette placing sample into vial for extracting DNA evidence in forensic lab.
(Andrew Brookes via Getty Images)

Since the incident happened in the dark, the victim was unable to provide officers with a description of the suspect.

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During the investigation, officers found a rear sliding glass door was forced open. They also recovered evidence at the scene and the victim had a sexual assault examination done at the hospital.

Biological evidence was submitted to the New Jersey State Police crime laboratory, the release said, which generated a DNA provide but failed to identify a suspect.

FILE- Police caution tape at a crime scene.
(iStock)

The Mount Laurel Police Department was notified in 2020 that the DNA from the 1997 case matched with Vasquez through the Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS.

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Vasquez pled guilty to contempt of a judicial order stemming from his arrest for driving without a license and was required to submit a DNA sample.

Police secured a search warrant and collected another DNA sample from Vasquez, which matched the one collected in 1997.

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“This case strongly demonstrates the value of the CODIS database as a law enforcement tool,” Prosecutor Bradshaw said. “I commend all of the investigators and law enforcement personnel whose thorough, diligent work held the defendant accountable after all of this time and brought justice for the victim.”