DNA Helps Convict Attacker Nearly Two Decades Later

January 8, 2024
Mills County Cold Case Solved

AUSTIN – A nearly two-decades old cold case has been solved thanks to the hard work and dedication of the Texas Rangers and local law enforcement. 

Last month, the 35th Judicial District Court of Mills County convicted Jessie Rodriquez, 41, of attempted aggravated sexual assault, a second-degree felony. Rodriquez received the maximum 20-year prison sentence.

The charges and conviction stem from a 2005 cold case in Mills County. In the early morning hours of Aug. 13, 2005, Rodriguez broke into a home, took a knife from the kitchen and entered a bedroom where a 21-year-old woman was sleeping. He held the knife to her throat and attempted to sexually assault her. Rodriquez briefly moved the knife during the attack, and the woman was able to wrestle the weapon away.

During the altercation, both the victim and Rodriquez were cut with the knife, and Rodriquez left a drop of blood in the home prior to fleeing.

Sheriff's investigators recovered the blood, and a Texas DPS Crime Lab forensic scientist developed a single source DNA profile originating from the unknown male suspect at the time. The profile was entered into CODIS (the Combined DNA Index System), but no matches were initially identified. Sheriff's investigators continued working the case and collecting samples with no luck.

In 2021, the Texas Rangers met with the Mills County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) and began the process of a CODIS familial DNA search, which was made possible through the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) — a federal grant through the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) that provides funding for advanced DNA testing. 

Through SAKI, DPS Crime Labs in Waco and Garland, along with the CODIS section in Austin, prepared and checked the single source profile from the case against more than a million profiles in CODIS for a familial match. The results indicated a convicted felon whose DNA profile was in CODIS shared a paternal relative with the unknown profile — now identified as Rodriquez — whose blood was found at the victim’s home in 2005. 

The Texas Rangers turned the information over to MCSO. With this new information, MCSO developed a suspect through genealogy. After conducting surveillance and collecting a DNA sample, forensic scientists from the DPS Lab in Waco confirmed the true identity of the suspect as Jessie Rodriguez. He confessed to the crime and in December 2023, pleaded guilty.

The Texas Rangers would like to thank the DPS Crime Lab forensic scientists in Waco, Garland and the Austin CODIS section, as well as the Mills County Sheriff’s Office and 35th Judicial District Attorney's Office, for their work to bring this cold case to a successful conclusion.

About the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative

The Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) project is funded by the U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) to help with the collection of DNA belonging to potential suspects. The program is designed to identify and prosecute violent serial sex offenders and aids in preventing a high number of unsubmitted sexual assault kits in the future.

DPS began participating in SAKI in 2019, when the Texas Rangers received two grants from the BJA. The funding is used for the collection and entry of lawfully owned DNA into CODIS and the investigation and prosecution of sexually related cold case homicides and sexual assault cases. The Texas Rangers utilize SAKI grant money for genetic genealogy testing of DNA samples from unknown offenders linked to sexual assaults and sexually related homicides to solve these cases, while working with other law enforcement agencies.

You can learn more about SAKI on the national Facebook page or website.

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