A California man has been arrested for a pair of brutal rapes from the 1990s, including one of a child, and has become a suspect in a third cold case, after being identified through DNA technology, police said.
On the evening of Oct. 21, 1995, a 9-year-old girl was walking home from a convenience store when she was grabbed by a man and dragged into a wooded area at Serrano Creek Park in Lake Forest, officials said.
The man raped the child and then let her go, and she ran home to tell her parents what happened, authorities said.
“Despite an exhaustive search, the suspect was not located,” the Orange County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement. “DNA evidence was collected during a sexual assault exam, but did not match anyone in existing databases.”
The little girl was also able to provide investigators with a description of the man for a sketch, and though they continued to search for him, less than three years later he struck again, cops said.
A 31-year-old woman was out for a run when she was grabbed from behind and pulled into bushes on a trail in Mission Viejo near El Toro Road and Marguerite Parkway at 11:30 a.m. on June 2, 1998, police said. The man raped the woman and fled the scene before a passer-by whom she sought help from was able to call the police.
DNA collected during a sexual assault exam came back a match to the evidence collected in the 1995 rape, but investigative leads ran cold, official said.
Police continued to run the DNA through law enforcement databases over the course of the last 23 years, but it was never connected to a suspect. Then, in August 2018, investigators with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department working with the FBI’s Investigative Genealogy Team employed techniques that looked at familial DNA to identify a suspect, officials said.
“In an unexpected turn, the genealogy led to two people: twin brothers,” the sheriff’s department said.
The brothers were identical twins, which mean they shared identical DNA, authorities said.
Both brothers were taken into custody, but detectives said they determined that one of the men was allegedly responsible for both rapes.
Kevin Konther, 53, of Highland, was arrested Thursday and on Monday was charged with two felony counts each of forcible rape, forcible oral copulation and aggravated sexual assault of a child. He was also charged with one felony count each of forcible lewd acts upon a child under 14 and lewd acts upon a child under 14, with sentencing enhancement allegations for kidnapping and sexual assault of multiple victims.
Konther has also been accused of committing lewd acts on multiple occasions between January 2002 and December 2003 against a 12-year-old girl, to whom he “was in a position of trust” and access, the Orange County District Attorney’s office said.
It was not clear if DNA evidence tied him to the third alleged victim, but the DA’s office said “further investigation led to the discovery of crimes Konther is accused of” in that case.
Konther is being held on $1.2 million bail. If convicted on all charges, he faces up to 140 years to life in state prison. He is due in court for a continued arraignment on Jan. 17.
The Orange County Sheriff's Office noted Konther's arrest came after they decided to use the same techniques that led to the capture of a suspect in the Golden State Killer case.
After matching crime scene DNA to genetic material from a relative of Joseph James DeAngelo who was registered on an open-source genealogy site, police zeroed in on the 72-year-old ex-cop, who was arrested last April.
Though DeAngelo’s arrest came just five days after he first became an official suspect, authorities had long been working through online family trees that appeared to match DNA samples from crimes connected to who was then referred to as the East Area Rapist.
DeAngelo was put under surveillance and his DNA was taken from something he discarded, officials said. It came back a match to DNA found at murder scenes in Ventura and Orange counties, authorities said. But investigators said they wanted to be even more certain, and a second sample was ordered to be tested. It too came back a match, officials said.
DeAngelo has been charged with 26 counts of murder and kidnapping. Prosecutors believe that he killed 13 people and raped dozens of others in six California counties in the 1970s and 1980s. He is on trial in Sacramento County but hasn't entered a plea.