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LA County Sheriffs Solve 25-Year-Old Murder Case Using DNA

Gladys Arellano (Courtesy L.A. County Sheriff's Dept.)
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On Wednesday, Los Angeles County Sheriff's detectives announced the arrest of 42-year-old Jose Luis Garcia for the sexual assault and murder of 17-year-old Gladys Arellano, a case that's been cold for 25 years.

On Jan. 30, 1996, the body of an unidentified woman was found 30 feet off the main road at the bottom of a ravine, in the Topanga Canyon area of Malibu. The body was partially clothed, leading investigators to suspect sexual assault.

In the days following, the body was identified as Gladys Arellano, who was last seen two days earlier at her home in Boyle Heights. She was reported missing by her family.

An autopsy later determined that Arellano had been sexually assaulted, beaten and strangled to death.

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"At the time of the initial investigation, serology was collected from Gladys' body," one of the detectives said at a press conference Wednesday, "and subsequently a DNA profile was uploaded to state and federal DNA databases as an 'unknown offender.'"

Homicide investigators weren't able to get much further and for over two decades, the case remained unsolved.

But when Luis Garcia, the accused killer, was arrested in November 2019 by Los Angeles Police for domestic assault, his DNA sample matched the DNA taken from Arellano's body in 1996.

The case was ultimately solved by Detective Joe Purcell of the Sheriff's Homicide Bureau Unsolved Case Unit, which is made up of 12 retired homicide investigators who work part-time solving murder cases using new technologies and anonymous tips.

Purcell obtained a search warrant to get an oral swab from Garcia, which they used to confirm the DNA match.

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Samantha Moreno, the victim's niece and goddaughter, was at today's press conference and spoke for the family:

"Gladys was only 17 when she was murdered ... [S]he had such big dreams for her life ... [I]t was extremely painful for us to lose her and live through 24-and-a-half-years of not knowing who killed her. We are pleased to know that Jose Luis Garcia has been taken off the streets after 24-and-a-half years. We want nothing more than for him to pay for his brutal crime. We recognize that this will not bring Gladys back but we are relieved to know that there will be justice for Gladys Arellano."

Authorities say Garcia was arrested for the murder by U.S. Marshalls in Dallas, Texas last month. He was extradited to California last week and arraigned for Arellano's murder this past Monday and remains in custody on $1 million bail.

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