Roberto Recendes has pleaded guilty to the 2002 rape and beating of a 94-year-old woman at Palo Alto Commons, according to the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office. He faces a 17-year sentence under a plea-bargain.
Recendes, 42, on Oct. 15 admitted to one count of sexual penetration by force and one count of elder abuse, DA office spokeswoman Amy Cornell said. He also admitted an allegation that he inflicted great bodily injury upon the victim. He will be sentenced to 17 years in prison on Dec. 9 under a plea bargain that replaces a potential 25-to-life sentence.
Recendes' plea comes seven years after a series of bizarre twists and turns in the case -- including the arrest of the wrong man after what was interpreted as a confession during a police interrogation. The victim, called "Jane Doe" in court papers, has since died.
Recendes was accused of breaking into the woman's assisted-living apartment at Palo Alto Commons in south Palo Alto on May 10, 2002. He was accused of entering through an unlocked sliding-glass door and of beating and raping the woman while committing a burglary.
The victim told police she was asleep when a Hispanic man who called himself "Manuel" entered her darkened apartment around 3 a.m. She fought back, scratching her assailant and tearing off his gold chain and watch, which were found in her apartment, according to a testifying officer.
Brooke Barloewen, a supervising criminalist for the Santa Clara County Crime Lab, testified during a preliminary hearing in 2009 that a hair found in an evidence bag containing sheets and blankets from the victim's bed matched Recendes' DNA. A second hair was a mix of DNA from the victim and possibly Recendes, she said.
Fingernail scrapings from the victim and DNA taken from two necklaces also showed Recendes as a possible contributor, she said.
One of those necklaces, a gold chain with nugget pendant found on the victim's bed, was identified by Recendes' former common-law wife, Artemesia Garcia, as belonging to Recendes.
Recendes had previously pleaded not guilty and was set to stand trial on the charges, along with an "enhancement" allegation of committing the sexual assault with great bodily injury during a burglary. He faced 25 years to life if convicted.
Recendes was convicted of domestic violence against Garcia and sent to prison in July 2004. He was paroled in 2006 and deported to Mexico. As a convicted felon, he was required to provide a DNA sample upon his release from prison, which was later entered into a database, according to Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Brian Welch.
The sample was found to match with the crime-scene DNA a few months after his deportation, Welch said.
After a manhunt, Recendes was arrested in Mexico in December 2007 and extradited several months later to Los Angeles. He was returned to Palo Alto and arrested on Aug. 20, 2008.
Police initially arrested Jorge Hernandez, a Gunn High School graduate, for the crime, because a ring found at the crime scene was engraved with his brother's name, "Edwin." Edwin Hernandez lived near Palo Alto Commons and had reported the ring stolen the prior year.
Police said Hernandez confessed to the crime during an extended interrogation, but DNA evidence later exonerated him. But he had also emotionally denied the assault when his brother was brought in to talk with him.
The department's interrogation techniques came under fire as a result of the false confession and Hernandez received a $75,000 settlement from the city in December 2004.