Arrest made in 2004 sexual assault case thanks to grant given to Pima Co. Sheriff’s Dept.

Updated: Feb. 26, 2021 at 10:13 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Victims of sexual assault may be closer to closure and justice thanks to a new grant given to the Pima County Sheriff’s Department.

SAKI, or Sexual Assault Kit Initiative, provided the department with $2 million in order to test their backlog of sexual assault kits.

Some of the kits dated back to the 1980s.

The sheriff’s department had 354 untested sexual assault kits to start. They were able to send all of them to be tested in a group, and out of those 206 DNA profiles were developed that were entered into CODIS, or the Combined DNA Index System.

From there, Detective Robin Crehan said they had 101 CODIS hits.

Answers then started to surface. One of the hits matched 53-year-old Ernest Rodarte. Rodarte is accused of forcing his way into a home near Valencia and Westover where he sexually assaulted two women in 2004.

For years, the case remained unsolved.

“Until we were able to send that kit to be tested, and do the follow up required, we didn’t really have any leads,” said Detctive Crehan.

It was dead end until now.

“We identified the individual, and that’s exactly the goal this grant was intended for,” said Detective Crehan.

After the DNA match is found, there’s an investigation process that follows due to the protocol of the grant. They must review evidence, locate the victims and suspect(s) involved, and review all the case reports and evidence. Then finally, in the Rodarte case, an arrest was made.

“It’s very important to them that there’s finally an answer,” said Crehan.

For the profiles that may not have a DNA match just yet, hope is not lost. Detective Crehan said their days are numbered.

“It’s not a matter of it, it’s a matter of when. It’s a matter of time before that individual commits another crime and that their DNA profile is entered, and it matches one from our kits,” said Crehan.

54 year old Ernest Rodarte is currently in the Pima County Jail on $250,000.00 bond and is expected to be in court on March 24th.

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