DNA leads Avon police to suspect | VailDaily.com

DNA leads Avon police to suspect

Sarah Mausolf
Avon, CO Colorado
Eagle County Sheriff's OfficeRicardo Paz Aguilar stands 5'4" and weighs 140 pounds, police said. If you spot him in Eagle County, call 9-1-1, Daly said.

AVON, Colorado – DNA evidence helped Avon Police get a warrant a case in which a man allegedly broke into several Avon apartments, and in one case, took off his pants and touched a sleeping woman’s leg.

This is the first case Avon police have ever solved using DNA evidence, detective Paul Arnold said.

Avon police on Friday obtained a warrant for Ricardo Paz Aguilar, 33, a former illegal Avon resident who was deported to Mexico in March, Avon Police Lt. Greg Daly said.

Police obtained the warrant in connection with three break-ins between 2006 and 2008 at the Eagle Bend Phase III apartments off Highway 6, Daly said.

In those incidents, sleeping women awoke to find Aguilar staring at them in various states of undress.

DNA evidence also links Aguilar to a break-in at the Lake Creek Village apartments in Edwards in August 2008, Daly said. A woman awoke to find a pantless Aguilar lying on the floor next to her bed, he said. The Eagle County Sheriff’s Department will continue that investigation next week, he said.

The warrant means police could put a stop to what they see as Aguilar’s increasingly dangerous behavior.

“To covertly enter people’s residences, go in, take off his clothes and be beside a female in bed or stand over a female – we can only conclude from these activities that it is an escalation of deviant behavior,” Daly said.

Aguilar has been in trouble before. In December, he allegedly stared at women through their balcony windows in two separate incidents at the Eagle Bend Phase III apartments, Daly said. Police caught Aguilar on the roof of the apartment complex.

In February, Aguilar plead guilty to felony trespassing charges and received a sentence of two years’ probation. Immigration officials deported him to Mexico in March, Daly said.

Police obtained DNA evidence from a shirt, pants and shoes Aguilar left behind in the apartments.

Clothing can yield skin flakes or sweat containing DNA, said Dave Linnertz, assistant director of the Colorado Bureau of Investigation in Grand Junction.

“DNA evidence is the best personal identifying evidence that there is,” he said.

Despite that, Avon police often hesitate to base their cases on DNA evidence because it takes so long to process, Daly said. Few police departments can afford their own forensics labs, so they send DNA evidence to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation for processing, which can take up to a year, Daly said.

In this case, it took seven months for Avon Police to get the DNA results back – and by then Aguilar had already been deported.

The lag time stems from a case overload. Right now, the bureau has two DNA analysts for 250 cases, Linnertz said. Processing DNA can take anywhere from a few days to several months, depending on the type of evidence, court dates and the type of crime, he said.

“Rapes and homicides tend to get prioritized a little higher,” Linnertz said.

Because DNA evidence can take so long to process, police often build their cases around other types of evidence like witness testimony or interviews, Daly said.

“There has been a perception by Eagle County juries that they want DNA for every case,” he said. “Before they’ll actually give a guilty verdict, they feel that they have to have DNA for a case but it’s a very rare case that we can physically have DNA for that case. There has been a little bit of frustration expressed in the law enforcement community that people feel that every case (where) we have DNA we can have a ‘CSI: Miami’ on the scene doing that.”

Aguilar’s case was one of the exceptions. DNA from his clothes matched a swab sample officials took from his mouth when they first arrested him, Daly said. A DNA database connected Aguilar to the Edwards case, Daly said.

DNA records from Colorado felons go into a national database that started in the early 1990s, Linnertz said.

The Eagle County Sheriff’s department sent Aguilar’s pants to the processing lab, and the DNA evidence matched Aguilar’s record in the database, Daly said.

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