A DNA match led to the July 5 arrest of a man who police say is responsible for at least two sexual assault cases from 2004 and 2006.
Phoenix police recently arrested Ramon Manuel Rivera, 50, on several counts of felony sexual assault, sexual abuse, and kidnapping.
In May, police were able to link Rivera to the 2006 sexual assault of a 17-year-old girl through a DNA match between samples from the assault and Rivera's recent drug arrest.
From there, investigators linked Rivera to an attempted sexual assault from 2004, according to documents obtained by New Times.
The first reported incident occurred in November 2004, when Rivera allegedly attempted to sexually assault a 40-year-old woman. The woman was sitting at a bus stop near 35th Avenue and Indian School Road when Rivera pulled up next to her in a maroon Geo Tracker SUV, pointed a gun at her, and demanded she get in the vehicle, according to the documents.
Rivera then drove the woman to a nearby alley and stopped the vehicle. He told her that he'd just gotten out of prison, and he wanted to have sex with her. As he removed his pants and attempted to sexually assault her, an unrelated vehicle pulled into the alleyway, interrupting the assault, according to court documents.
The woman escaped, but didn't initially report the incident to the police.
Rivera and the woman would have had another encounter several months later. He spotted the woman walking, chased her in his SUV and warned her that he'd always be keeping an eye on her, documents say.
She escaped the incident unharmed, but decided to contact police after that run-in with Rivera.
The woman told police that during the first encounter, she noticed a picture of her attacker on his dashboard. The photograph showed the attacker flexing in a pair of speedos with the name Raymond Ramirez written on it, documents say.
Rivera apparently had all kinds of aliases. Police listed Ramon Alvarez, Ron Rivera, Ron Rosario, Ramon Julio Vega, Julio Ramon Alvarez, and Ron Rosario Ramon-Vega as suspected false identities that Rivera has assumed over the years. This is likely one of the reasons Rivera was able evade police for so long, Phoenix Police Officer James Holmes tells New Times.
She was able to record his license plate during the second encounter, and the plates matched a 2001 maroon Geo Tracker -- the same vehicle Rivera was driving -- but it was registered to a woman. Police continued to keep tabs on the vehicle and discovered a few months later that Rivera's name had been added to its registration during a run of the plates, Holmes says.
They attempted to track down Rivera to investigate his possible connection to the attempted assault, but were unsuccessful in finding him.
In May 2006, Rivera allegedly raped the 17-year-old girl near 68th Avenue and Indian School Road. Police didn't make the connection at the time, but Holmes says investigators just recently discovered that the details of that assault are similar to those surrounding the attempted sexual assault of the 40-year-old woman in 2004.
Many of those details weren't as apparent at the time as they are now., Holmes says.
"You're talking about 35th Avenue to 68th Avenue which is quite a distance," Holmes says. "And, of course there's other sexual assaults occurring at the same time. It's hard to make that connection [by the time] you start the 2006 investigation."
One detail that appears to be consistent, however, is the maroon SUV.
In the 2006 attack, the 17-year-old high school student was walking home from school when that maroon SUV pulled up next to her and motioned for her to come toward the vehicle. As the girl approached, Rivera pulled a gun on her and coerced her into getting inside, according to the documents.
He then drove to a space behind a business along Indian School Road -- a move similar to the 2004 incident, documents say. The girl told police Rivera said he'd just gotten out of prison and he needed sexual fulfillment -- just like the 2004 incident. That time, police say, Rivera actually committed the act of sexual assault.
The girl told police that he pretended as if nothing had happened afterwards and asked her where she needed to be dropped off. The girl contacted police, and the medical examiner collected DNA samples of the man who would later be identified as Rivera.
The victim had no names for the police -- just the DNA sample. The only piece of evidence linking the two cases was the vehicle. It would take nearly eight years from the first attack for police to finally link Rivera to his two victims.
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In May, the Phoenix Police Crime Lab discovered that Rivera's DNA -- taken after a drug-related arrest -- matched the DNA of the same man who assaulted the 17-year-old girl.
The Phoenix Police Sex Crimes Cold Case unit was notified of the match, and they eventually linked Rivera to the first attempted assault as well.
Holmes says detectives are continuing to investigate other possible sexual assault cases that Rivera may be linked to. He says there have been no other major breaks yet, but detectives are not completely sure what Rivera was up to between 2006 and now.