DNA Evidence Leads to Arrest in Brutal Sexual Assault of 14-Year-Old Girl at Santa Ana Park: Police

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Left, a suspect sketch released by Santa Ana police in Nov. 2018, and right, a booking photo of Cornelio Chairez-Velasquez.

Left, a suspect sketch released by Santa Ana police in Nov. 2018, and right, a booking photo of Cornelio Chairez-Velasquez.

Police have arrested a man in connection with the sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl at a Santa Ana park last year after DNA evidence recently tied him to the brutal attack, police said Wednesday.

The suspect, 37-year-old Cornelio Chairez-Velasquez, was already in custody after allegedly tried to sexual assault and strangle a woman at a motel this past January, according to a Santa Ana Police Department news release.

Using DNA evidence, police were able to link Chairez-Velasquez to a vicious assault on a teenage girl at Cabrillo Park back on November 24, 2018, police said.

The girl had gone to the park, located at 1820 E. Fruit St., after leaving home following an argument with her mother, Cpl. Anthony Bertagna told KTLA at the time.

She was sitting on a bench sometime after midnight when a man approached her and began making small talk, something that made the victim uncomfortable. The teen tried to walk away, but the man allegedly pulled a knife on her and forced her to sit down, police said.

At that point, the victim was brutally beaten sexually assaulted, according to investigators.

“He punched her several times about the head and upper torso, choked her and committed a lewd act,” Bertagna said.

She suffered multiple injuries but was able to escape and alert police.

Detectives subsequently released a sketch and description of the wanted man as they sought the public’s help in locating him. But authorities were not able to identify a suspect in the case until they turned to forensic evidence.

That was when they discovered Chairez-Velasquez was already in custody at the Orange County Jail, where he had booked on suspicion of attempted murder and sexual assault in connection with the motel attack, according to the release.

He now faces additional charges of rape and child molestation stemming from the Cabrillo Park incident, police said.

Detectives are concerned that Chairez-Velasquez may have victimized others. They are asking anyone with information to contact Detective Cpl. Maria Lopez by calling 714-245-8542 or emailing mlopez15@santa-ana.org.

Anonymous tips can also be left by dialing Orange County Crime Stoppers at 1-855-TIP-OCCS.

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