Tierna Unruh-Enos is publisher at The Paper.

In 1997 a woman (identified as M.C.) called 911 to report that she had been raped in her apartment in NE Albuquerque. She reported a man had broken into her apartment around 4am and sexually assaulted her at knifepoint after she opened her window to let her cat in. She was transferred to St. Joseph’s Hospital by police and had a rape examination completed. For decades her case sat on a shelf. M.C. moved away from Albuquerque. She never heard a word about her assailant or the assault from 1997 until this week.

M.C.’s case wasn’t the only one gathering dust. When Mayor Tim Keller took office in 2018, he announced that one of his first initiatives was securing federal dollars to clear the entire backlog of 5,000 rape kits by 2020. As of February of 2021, that backlog was cleared. The work for detectives investigating those cases, however, was far from over.

The Albuquerque Police Dept. has three full-time detectives investigating sexual assault cases. With the advancement of genealogy technology from companies like 23 and Me and Ancestry.com, law enforcement has been able to identify suspects from cold cases through family lineage. Bernalillo County District Attorney Raúl Torrez said the oldest case that was in the backlog was from 1988.

Last year the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s office, through its Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI), worked with the Bureau of Justice Assistance and the Department of Justice Grants to partner with BODE Technology to perform Forensic Genetic Genealogy testing on M.C.’s rape kit.

In November forensic genealogists, with the assistance of the Crime Strategies Special Agents, narrowed the field of possible suspects to Edward Gilbert Duran and two of his brothers. Duran is in his early 60s and lives in Albuquerque. The forensic genealogists utilized databases and family tree DNA to find relatives of the unknown DNA collected from M.C. to then narrow the field of suspects by building a family tree. The DA’s agents and genealogists also considered the locations where family members may have resided at the time of the offense and whether the family had sons or daughters. 

On November 15, 2021, a fork used and discarded by Duran was collected from an Albuquerque restaurant. The fork was sent to BODE Technology for comparison to the DNA evidence taken from M.C. On December 9, 2021, the DA’s office learned the DNA from the fork was a match to Duran. Detectives from the Albuquerque Police Dept. arrested Duran on Tuesday, December 21 on first-degree criminal sexual penetration charges.

Detectives believe M.C.’s case isn’t the first for Duran. They have linked him to at least seven other sexual assault cold cases in NE and SE Albuquerque from 1990 to 1994. The DA’s office is still working to contact those seven other victims. According to state law, there is no statute of limitations on first-degree felony charges like the one Duran faces in these cases. Duran has denied any involvement.

Torrez said that the detectives currently have 11 other sexual assault cases that they are investigating with forensic genealogy. All results from the genealogy sites are submitted by users voluntarily and must acknowledge that their results may be used by law enforcement to investigate crimes.

Torrez had a message for other victims who are still waiting on information regarding their sexual assault investigations. “We’re just getting started, we haven’t forgotten you.”