2007-05-25 / Community

Far Rockaway Man Found Guilty Of Rape

Cold Hit Traps Local For Jamaica Crime

Far Rockaway man was convicted in Queens Supreme Court on Tuesday for committing a 1999 sexual assault on a 23-year-old woman in the Jamaica section of queens based on DNA evidence that was collected at the time of the incident and remained in police custody for the intervening eight years.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown identified the defendant as Santiago Lugo, 45, of 333 Beach 32 Street.

The defendant, a former salesman, was found guilty on Tuesday by a jury of first-degree rape and four counts of first-degree sex abuse.

Brown said, "The defendant would have probably escaped punishment for his crime had he not been required to provide a DNA sample in the course of an unrelated prosecution in 2003.

"In re-testing evidence from sexual assault cold cases using newly available advanced scientific techniques in June 2005, the City's DNA laboratory at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner positively linked semen found in the rape evidence kit of a 23-year-old victim to the defendant's DNA profile.

"The case is yet another example of the crucial importance of DNA evidence which is irrefutable proof of guilt or innocence. This young woman is to be commended for coming forward and confronting her attacker at trial.

"She testified with dignity and grace during her four hours on the witness stand. The defendant changed her life forever eight years ago, and hopefully this conviction provides her with some small measure of help in overcoming the trauma she experienced during his assault on her."

Brown added that, according to trial testimony, the defendant attacked the victim, then 23 years old, by grabbing her from behind as she walked home from work at approximately 11:50 p.m. on March 3, 1999, in Jamaica.

Court records show that Lugo pressed a hard object to her back and ordered her to not look at his face and to obey him if she did not want to be hurt.

Thereafter, court records show, he led her to a secluded area where he sexually abused and raped her before fleeing on foot.

The victim, who remains unidentified by police and court records because of the nature of the crime, was treated at a local hospital which collected a rape evidence kit.

The police later submitted that rape kit for DNA testing and it ultimately linked the defendant to the crime.

Queens Supreme Court Justice John B. Latella Jr., who presided at the one-week trial, set sentencing for June 18.

The defendant, who has been held in jail on $350,000 bail since his arrest in July 2005, faces up to 25 years in prison at his sentencing hearing.

Lugo is the latest in a line of alleged rapists who have been found through "cold hits," DNA evidence taken from crime scenes up to fifteen years ago that prove a defendent had committed a crime. Legislators have been pushing for a DNA database based on this recent experience.

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