The long wait for the imprisonment of a man who in 2002 raped and beat a 94-year-old Palo Alto woman came to an end on Thursday (Jan. 6) with a 17-year sentence. The victim, called "Jane Doe" in court papers, has since died.
Roberto Recendes, 42, on Oct. 15 admitted to one count of sexual penetration by force and one count of elder abuse in the assault of the woman in her Palo Alto Commons apartment in south Palo Alto on May 10, 2002.
He also admitted that he inflicted great bodily injury upon her. The 17-year sentence is a plea bargain that replaces a potential 25-to-life sentence.
Recendes' sentence 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.
Recendes was accused of breaking into the woman's assisted-living apartment at Palo Alto Commons in south Palo Alto. He entered through an unlocked sliding-glass door and assaulted the woman while committing a burglary, according to police.
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 source, she said.
One necklace, a gold chain with a 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" charge of committing sexual assault with great bodily injury during a burglary.
He was convicted of domestic violence against Garcia and sent to prison in July 2004. Upon 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 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 there apparently was ambiguity in what he said that was misinterpreted by the interrogator. DNA evidence later exonerated him completely. Hernandez also emotionally denied the assault when his brother, Edwin, 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.