DNA breaks cold case in Santa Barbara

SANTA BARBARA — Almost three years ago to the day, the spectacular beachfront setting of Santa Barbara City College’s La Playa Stadium, home of the local Vaqueros footballers, was the mid-day setting for a vicious and violent sexual assault. Until last week, it was a case without a suspect and remained unsolved.

All that was known on the date of the crime came only from the suspect and a passerby who witnessed the attack and summoned campus security officers.

As detailed in a police department news release, the 19-year-old female victim was walking past the campus on her way to downtown Santa Barbara on the afternoon of June 7, 2007. With other pedestrians in the vicinity, she had no immediate cause for alarm, although she had become aware of a male walking behind her less than a block to the rear. When she made her way to a busy intersection just below the steps leading up a steep hill to the campus proper, the man caught up to her. She noticed that he wore a hat pulled down over his eyes and was apparently engrossed in text-messaging on his cell phone.

When the young woman turned to ascend the concrete stairway leading up to the college quad, she made it no more than halfway up when she was suddenly grabbed from behind and violently knocked into the adjacent heavy foliage. Punching her in the head, the attacker made every effort to subdue his victim, but she fought back energetically. Throughout the struggle, the assailant worked hard to overpower her while holding her down and punching her. At one point, he managed to sexually assault her while telling her that he was going to rape her and smashing her head against the concrete steps.

With the attack lasting more than a full minute, an unsuspecting passerby descending the stairs saw the confrontation and immediately responded to the woman’s calls for help by running off to alert security. By the time campus patrol and police officers arrived on the scene, the suspect had made his escape.

Pursuant to medical examination of the victim, the attacker’s DNA was recovered and delivered to CODIS, the California Department of Justice’s Combined DNA Indexing System. For the next two years, no offender match could be reasonably ascertained, and the case remained open and under investigation.

Then, in January 2010, Jesus Sanchez-Roman, 24, was arrested and convicted of a local area assault. At the time of that arrest, and in accordance with California statute, Sanchez-Roman provided a DNA sample.

Six months later, the ongoing efforts of Santa Barbara police Det. Brian Jensen, who has been leading the 2007 city college assault investigation “was working the CODIS updates and found the ‘hit’ he needed” to tie Sanchez-Roman to the victim in that case, according to the release.

Jensen led the arrest team that brought Sanchez-Roman in on June 3, and had the distinct satisfaction of booking him on charges of attempted rape, assault with a deadly weapon, false imprisonment, and sexual battery. With his bail initially set at $500,000, Sanchez-Roman is currently wearing an orange jumpsuit in Santa Barbara County Jail.


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