An illegal immigrant rapist from Honduras has been arrested on numerous occasions
Gary L. Wright:
While Charlotte-Mecklenburg police tried to put a name to DNA evidence linking three rapes, the man they now say attacked the women was in and out of police custody and once even deported.
Jose C. Rivera, an illegal immigrant from Honduras, has been arrested in Mecklenburg County eight times since the first rape was reported in April 2004. Immigration officials had taken him from the Mecklenburg jail to Atlanta on Thursday and were planning to deport him.
But Charlotte-Mecklenburg police got warrants Friday charging him with the rapes -- and to make sure he wasn't sent home before those warrants could be served, federal authorities charged him with illegally re-entering the country.
Rivera will now be brought back to Mecklenburg to face the immigration and rape charges.
Court records show the 26-year-old has been accused of several crimes in Mecklenburg County. He has breaking and entering charges pending, and has been convicted of possession of a stolen vehicle and driving with license revoked.
He was charged with carrying a concealed gun in August 2005. In September 2004, he was jailed in connection with a concealed knife charge.
One of the women Rivera is accused of attacking told police her rapist had a gun, another said he had a sharp instrument.
During a traffic stop in 2004, Rivera gave police a Honduras ID that had the name Jose Cristobal Zacarias, court records show. During a search of the vehicle, police found three other IDs -- each with Rivera's picture but a different name. One was from Mexico, another from Honduras.
Inside the vehicle, according to police, were pictures of Rivera posing nearly naked holding handguns and showing gang signs.
"Because of the various names, stolen tag and the pictures, it was the officer's opinion ... that this individual is involved in a gang or gang-related activity," a police officer wrote in an affidavit after Rivera was charged with giving a false name.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police spokeswoman Julie Hill said police used forensics to link Rivera to the rapes, but she would not go into more detail or say whether DNA connected him.
In October 2005, a month after the third rape, police said they had evidence linking the three rapes, but were unable to identify the attacker. They used DNA taken from the victims to connect the cases. Detectives submitted that DNA to the state's database of all convicted felons -- but at the time didn't find a match.
In July 2006, Rivera was ordered to provide a DNA sample after he pleaded guilty to possession of a stolen motor vehicle. Convicted felons are required to submit a DNA sample that is then put into the state's DNA database. North Carolina's database is linked to the nationwide DNA database.
Noelle Talley, the spokeswoman for the N.C. Department of Justice, would not say Tuesday if Rivera's DNA is in the state database or when it was placed in the database. She said state and federal laws prohibit her from releasing that information.
Talley said the statewide database of convicted felons now has about 130,000 samples. She said the system keeps working to find matches even when the first attempts fail. The system searches for matches once a week as new DNA samples are added.
Searches of the database netted more matches that helped solve crimes last year than in the entire first decade of North Carolina's DNA program combined, and hits to the database so far this year are on pace to exceed last year's total.
There were 259 hits last year. This year, as of July 20, there had been 239.
Suspected Serial Rapist Was In And Out Of Mecklenburg County Jail