More than 20 years after the brutal rapes of a 9-year-old girl and a woman in Orange County, sheriff's officials have arrested a suspect linked through DNA evidence, authorities said Friday.
Kevin Konther, 53, was arrested after the Orange County Sheriff’s Department worked with the FBI to track him down using DNA evidence collected at the scene of both crimes, which occurred about two and a half years apart, officials said. He will be arraigned on Monday.
Both victims appear to have been targeted randomly, as Konther grabbed them both from behind and assaulted them in public areas, according to authorities.
Prosecutors have said it's possible there are other victims out there and the investigation into Konther is ongoing.
The decades-old cold cases were solved using "similar tactics" as those used to track down the Golden State Killer accused of slayings and rapes throughout California, Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes told reporters Friday. Accused serial killer Joseph James DeAngelo was found through DNA taken from genealogy sites such as Ancestry.com and 23andMe.com, authorities have said.
But the DNA evidence found in both O.C. rape cases was initially linked to two men.
"In an unexpected turn of events, the DNA profile led not to just one individual but two — twin brothers," Barnes said.
On Thursday morning, Konther and his brother were both arrested at their respective homes in Highland, officials said. Since they are identical twins, their DNA profiles are identical.
Upon further investigation, authorities identified Konther as the actual suspect and booked him into Orange County Jail. His brother was released. Konther is being held on $1 million bail.
In the first case, the 9-year-old victim was walking home from buying school supplies at a convenience store in Lake Forest on the evening of Oct. 21, 1995, when she was attacked shortly before 7 p.m., officials said.
She was "grabbed by a man from behind and dragged from the sidewalk into a nearby wooded area," Barnes told reporters.
"She was forced to undress and was raped," Barnes said.
Konther also forced the child to perform sex acts as he violently assaulted her inside a wooded area of Serrano Creek Park, sheriff's officials said.
She ran home naked and told her parents, who then reported the attack to law enforcement, officials said.
The adult victim, a 31-year-old woman, was jogging in Mission Viejo when authorities say the suspect kidnapped and assaulted her.
It was about 11:30 a.m. on June 2, 1998, and the victim was on a trail near El Toro Road and Marguerite Parkway when she was grabbed from behind, officials said. She was then pulled into some nearby bushes and raped.
The suspect fled the scene. The victim told a passerby about the assault and it was reported to local law enforcement.
In both cases, DNA evidence was collected and investigators worked vigorously to find the rapist using law enforcement databases, Barnes said. The underage victim managed to give enough information to help authorities put together a sketch that was released to the general public.
But the cases eventually turned cold.
"They’ve had to live with this for two decades, probably always looking over their shoulder," Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said.
Upon Konther's arrest, both victims were told he had been taken into custody, according to Barnes.
"She was shocked," Barnes said of the victim who was just a child when she was attacked. He described the other victim as "elated" to hear of the suspect's arrest.
According to prosecutors, multiple felony charges are expected to be filed against Konther on Monday. Spitzer said Konther could face a maximum sentence of 125 years to life in prison if convicted of the charges currently being filed against him.
But other criminal counts could also later be filed, with the possibility of other victims out there, Spitzer said.
"This is a definition of a sexual predator," the prosecutor told reporters Friday. "This is a definition of a person who preyed on innocent women … while they were just going on about their everyday lives and brutally victimized them."