It was Nov. 26, 1994.
A 43-year-old woman was jogging on the bosque trail when she was beaten with a rock, hogtied with strips of her own clothing and raped by a man she didn’t know. The case went cold and the woman never fully recovered – or felt safe again – and died in 2013.
Now, police say the decades-old rape kit was recently matched to convicted sex offender Gilbert Contreras. The 56-year-old Albuquerque man was charged on Nov. 4 with criminal sexual penetration and kidnapping in the case.
“Both of these crimes are first-degree felonies and have no statute of limitations,” a detective wrote in a criminal complain filed in Metropolitan Court.
Adam Oakey, Contreras’ attorney, told the Journal, “We must remember that Mr. Contreras is presumed to be innocent.”
“This is an interesting case where the state would presume to be able to prove that a crime was committed nearly 30 years ago based on very little information, very little evidence. We look forward to challenging the assumptions of the government and letting justice be served,” Oakey said.
Gilbert Gallegos, an Albuquerque Police Department spokesman, said the woman’s rape kit was in the backlog and detectives are hopeful the woman being deceased won’t hinder prosecution.
Prosecutors have filed a motion to detain Contreras until trial, stating “it is difficult to come up with a more frightening and dangerous situation than what the defendant put the victim through.”
Since the alleged incident, Contreras has been arrested and convicted of robbery, sexual assault, child abuse and aggravated fleeing a law enforcement officer. In 2012, Contreras was sentenced to four years in prison after pleading guilty in a case where he shot up his own home in Deming to try to frame someone else.
The 1994 case initially kicked off when passersby found the woman bloodied and tied up near the bosque trail, according to the complaint. The woman told police she was jogging on the trail when a man attacked her near the Rio Grande Nature Center.
Police said the woman told them the man threatened to kill her and dragged her from the trail before raping her. She said the man hit her with a rock repeatedly, stole her ring and tied her up before leaving.
Police attempted to find the assailant “but they were unsuccessful and this case was suspended,” according to the complaint.
Decades later, the department got a hit in the Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS, that matched Contreras.
Police said they interviewed Contreras in August and he denied the crime and said he was in prison at the time but police could not find records of that sentence.
Detectives took a DNA swab from Contreras and it matched the original sample at a degree of 1 in 8.3 nonillion (or 8.3 times 10 to the power 30).
Police spoke with the woman’s daughter, who told them her mother was never the same after the incident, according to the complaint. The daughter said her mother’s entire personality changed and she “became panicky and fearful of men.”
She told police her mother stopped running, would not go to the bosque and even moved because she “didn’t feel safe in Albuquerque.” The daughter said the changes persisted until her mother’s death in 2013.