SACRAMENTO, Calif.—DNA technology was used to find a suspect who was arrested in a nearly decade-old series of Sacramento-area rapes, authorities said Friday.
Prosecutors said the man they called the "roaming rapist" attacked 10 women and girls throughout Sacramento County from 1998 to 2003. The victims ranged in age from 14 to 42.
Investigators had trouble linking the attacks because the rapist showed no particular pattern.
DNA samples collected from victims were inconclusive until last week, when updated technology produced a general DNA match to the suspect's brother, a convicted felon awaiting trial on unrelated sexual assault charges, authorities said.
Investigators were then able to zero in on the suspect, identified as Dereck Sanders, 39, of Isleton.
Detectives said they took a piece of trash he had discarded as a way to obtain his DNA. The Sacramento County and state crime labs then made the match to the victims, authorities said.
Derek Sanders previously had only a minor police record, not enough to require him to submit a DNA sample, authorities said.
"He would have been pretty much off our radar for a while because he was unknown to us," said sheriff's Detective Brad Jones.
"This was a perfect marriage of modern policing as well as old-fashioned detective work," added Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones.
Sanders was arrested late Thursday and booked into Sacramento County Jail on Friday. Hefaces 35 counts, including aggravating circumstances such as kidnapping and using a gun while committing a rape.
The enhanced charges could lead to a sentence of life in prison if Sanders is convicted.
Authorities said the suspect is indigent and living on food stamps with his girlfriend and her family. A public defender will be assigned at his arraignment Tuesday.
Investigators are trying to determine if there are additional victims and why no rapes linked to the case have occurred since 2003.
The attacker was given the nickname because he ranged over a wide swath of Sacramento County.
"This was a violent and serious offender," said Sacramento police Detective Avis Beery, who investigated two of the rapes.
The first victim, 18 at the time, told investigators she was riding her bicycle when she was attacked by a man who choked her and hit her in the head with a rock.
In another incident, the rapist used a gun to threaten two other victims, ages 14 and 15, who had sneaked out of the house to meet friends at a fast-food restaurant, according to a detective's affidavit.
Beery said she had made it a personal goal to catch the rapist before she retired.