DNA Testing Leads to Man’s Arrest in 1998 Riverside County Killing That His Father Is Also Charged In

Local News

The son of a man charged in a 1998 cold-case killing was arrested after DNA testing also tied him to the crime that another person had wrongfully served 20 years behind bars for, the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office said Tuesday in a news release.

Googie Rene Harris Jr., 40, was arrested in Palm Desert last Friday and charged with one count of murder in connection with the killing of his father’s ex-wife, Terry Cheek, authorities said.

Horace Roberts, who was wrongfully convicted of a 1998 murder, is seen after being exonerated 20 years later in 2018. (Credit: California Innocence Project )
Horace Roberts, who was wrongfully convicted of a 1998 murder, is seen after being exonerated 20 years later in 2018. (Credit: California Innocence Project )

Cheek’s body was found in April 1998 near some rocks along Temescal Canyon Road in the Corona Lake area.

The discovery led to the arrest of her boyfriend and co-worker, Horace Roberts, who served 20 years behind bars before he was exonerated last year when the California Innocence Project used new technology to obtain additional DNA testing that tied two other suspects to the killing, according to the DA’s office.

Photos Googie Rene Harris Sr. and Joaquin Lateee Leal are displayed by the Riverside County District Attorney's Office during a news conference in October 2018.
Photos Googie Rene Harris Sr. and Joaquin Lateee Leal are displayed by the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office during a news conference in October 2018.

The investigation into Cheek’s killing was reopened, which led to the arrest of Googie Rene Harris Sr., 63, of Jurupa Valley, and Joaquin Lateee Leal, 53, of Compton, in October 2018.

Harris Sr. was married to Cheek and Leal was the victim’s nephew by marriage, authorities said.

The latest arrest, of Harris Jr., comes after DNA testing of a watch found near the victim’s body connected him to her killing, according to the DA’s office.

Investigators believe the watch was knocked off of Harris Jr.’s arm when the victim’s body was left along Temescal Canyon Road, the DA said.

The father-son duo and Leal are all believed to have been involved in a plan to kill the woman, authorities said. A motive for the killing is unknown.

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