DNA from COVID mask helps jury convict child rapist

Mug shot of Leonardo Ramirez Jr. (Photo provided by Monterey County District Attorney’s Office)

A Monterey County jury convicted a King City man for raping a 10-year-old girl in 2018, after investigators obtained the prime suspect's DNA from a discarded COVID mask more than two years after the crime.

The jury found 28-year-old Leonardo Ramirez Jr. guilty of several charges Tuesday in addition to the rape, including the infliction of bodily harm on a child and using a dangerous weapon.

The rape occurred Feb. 3, 2018, around 7 a.m., according to a press release issued Wednesday by Monterey County District Attorney Jeannine M. Pacioni.

The victim woke up to a man in her bedroom wearing a mask over his entire face holding what looked like a handgun.

During an investigation lasting more than two years, police interviewed suspects and took DNA swabs in an unsuccessful effort to identify the suspect.

In February, however, Ramirez added the victim on SnapChat. Because Ramirez -- a distant relative of the victim -- was so much older than the girl, she became suspicious and remembered that he had a similar accent and build to her rapist.

The girl alerted police, who made numerous efforts over several months to obtain the suspect's DNA without him realizing it, according to the district attorney's press release.

On May 20, 2020, the King City police set up a meeting with Ramirez at the police station. When he arrived, detectives threw away their masks and put on new ones.

They offered Ramirez a new mask as well, and the suspect discarded his old one into a waste bin lined with an evidence bag. Subsequent tests of the mask revealed a match with the rapist's DNA.

The case was primarily investigated by Sergeants Joshue Partida and Leo Guzman of the Greenfield Police department and Detective John Dow and retired Detective Steven Kennedy of the King City Police Department.

Ramirez will receive a mandatory sentence of life without parole, according to the county press release.