More than 37 years after the nude, lifeless body of a young pregnant newlywed was found along the coast of Palos Verdes Estates, investigators on Friday announced the arrest of a convicted rapist whose alleged motive was sexual assault.
Robert Yniguez from San Pedro, now 65, was arrested Thursday on suspicion of murder in the 1980 death of 20-year-old Teresa Broudreaux, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department announced. Investigators do not think the victim and suspect knew each other.
New technology and an "innovative technique" related to DNA evidence linked Yniguez to the crime scene in 2013, but because "DNA isn't a slam dunk," investigators worked for years to make the case, conducting interviews and working closely with prosecutors, sheriff's homicide Detective Ralph Hernandez said at a news conference.
Sheriff's Jim McDonnell lauded the Homicide Bureau's Unsolved Unit, and homicide Capt. Christopher Bergner said the unit's 20 investigators are working cases that date back to 1927.
“Homicide’s Unsolved Unit simply doesn’t give up," McDonnell said. “Homicide Bureau never forgets.”
An investigation into the slaying of Teresa Broudreaux began in the early morning hours of March 4, 1980, when she was found deceased along the rocky shoreline of Malaga Cove Beach.
After an argument with her 21-year-old husband Ronnie Fematt in Wilmington the previous night, she walked to her sister's home and then left after a brief visit, McDonnell said. She was never seen alive again.
Broudreaux died after sustaining blunt force trauma to the head, a sheriff's news release stated. She had suffered a massive blow to the head, according to an autopsy report obtained by the Daily Breeze.
When a surfer discovered her body, she was wearing nothing except a pair of knee socks, the newspaper reported. She had been wearing a long-sleeve maternity top, pants, sandals and a windbreaker when she was last seen.
Investigators found a purse with her identification inside in some nearby bushes, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Broudreaux had a 4-year-old daughter and had recently married. The Daily Breeze reported she was about five months pregnant.
Fematt appeared at Friday's news conference, thanking detectives for their work and his family for believing in him.
"It’s been a long time for what I’ve been through, and the uncertainty of not knowing why or how," Fematt said. "I'm just glad this day came."
He added that people still believe that he killed his wife and that he won’t feel completely at ease until Yniguez is convicted.
“There was nobody to hear her cry, nobody that heard her screams, nobody that would help her and when she bled out, the baby died,” Fematt said.
Yniguez was arrested outside his home before dawn Thursday.
He had in 1982 been convicted of rape in a separate case and is a registered sex offender, Hernandez said. He served eight years of a 12-year sentence, the detective said he believed.
Yniguez was also arrested in 1981 for another sex assault, but that case was dropped, despite going to a preliminary hearing, due to the victim's lack of cooperation, Hernandez said. That incident bore similarities to Broudreaux's killing, Hernandez said.
Investigators do not know if Broudreaux was sexually assaulted, the detective said. He did not provide details about the nature of the DNA evidence that led to Yniguez.
Yniguez is married and has a family, Hernandez said.
Investigators had spoken to him twice before his arrest and he knew that detectives planned to seek criminal charges against him, Hernandez said.
"He was upset," the detective said.
Yniguez is being held on $2 million bail and is expected to be arraigned in Torrance on Monday.
California's Megan's Law website lists multiple aliases for Yniguez. He was convicted in 1982 of rape by force and oral copulation with a minor under 14 years of age or by force or fear, the website states.